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RUTGERS JOURNAL OF LAW AND RELIGION 



Volume 9.2 Spring 2008 



THE SIKH TURBAN: POST-911 CHALLENGES TO THIS 

ARTICLE OF FAITH 

Neha Singh Gohil 1 
Dawinder S. Sidhu 



Turbans have been worn by different people around the world for at least the past 
3,000 years. For one community, the Sikhs, the turban carries deep religious 
significance. Members of the Sikh faith — the fifth largest religion in the world — are 
required to wear a turban pursuant to religious mandate. 

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Sikh turbans have 
taken on a new meaning. Because non-Sikhs tend to associate Sikhs' turbans with 
Osama bin Laden, Sikhs with turbans have become a superficial and accessible proxy for 
the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. As a result, turbaned Sikhs in America have been 
victims of racial violence and have had their identity challenged by calls for immigrant 
groups to assimilate into Western societies. 

This essay examines how the turban has transformed from a sacred piece of attire 
for Sikhs to a target for discriminatory conduct and an object of marginalization after 
9/11. Part I provides an introduction to Sikhism, which originated in 17th century South 
Asia, and discusses the religious significance of the Sikh turban. Part II examines 
incidents of discrimination in several contexts involving turbaned Sikhs in America. Part 
III analyzes the debate surrounding assimilation that has been taking place in the West, 
which implicates conspicuous articles of faith, including the Sikh turban. The essay also 
explores the legal remedies available to turbaned Sikhs affected by discriminatory 
conduct or by broader policies on the wearing of turbans. 

1 M.S., Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; J.D., Yale Law School; 
B.A., University of Southern California. Ms. Gohil is Advocacy Director and Staff 
Attorney at the Sikh Coalition. She would like to thank Amy Chua for her assistance 
with the first draft of this paper, the Discrimination and National Security Initiative for 
developing it, Amardeep Singh for help along the way, and her parents and husband for 
their constant support. 

J.D., The George Washington University; M.A., Johns Hopkins University; B.A., 
University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Sidhu is a founding director of the Discrimination and 
National Security Initiative, and civil rights attorney. He would like to thank Anil Kalhan 
and Valarie Kaur for their helpful comments on earlier drafts, Rajbir Singh Datta and 
Amardeep Singh for their assistance in identifying relevant incidents, and his parents for 
their love and encouragement. 



i 



The essay attempts, for the first time, to report on Sikh concerns, which, until now, have 
largely been subsumed in broader discussions of the post-9/11 climate. 



Table of Contents 



Introduction 1 

I. Sikhism and the Sikh Turban 8 

A. Founding and Early Development of Sikhism 8 

B. Symbolic and Physical Aspects of the Sikh Turban 12 

C. Turbans in Other Communities 15 

II. The Tangible Challenge to the Sikh Turban: Violence and 18 
Discriminatory Conduct 

A. Harassment 20 

B. Detention 22 

C. Violence 23 

D. Denial of Entry into Public Places 26 

E. Employment Discrimination 28 

F. Profiling 35 

G. Conclusion 36 

III. The Intellectual Challenge to the Sikh Turban: Assimilation 38 
by way of Eliminating Conspicuous Articles of Faith 

A. The Introduction of the Sikh Turban to the West 38 

B. The Global Call for Assimilation after 9/11 43 

C. The State of the Multicultural Union 53 

D. Conclusion 59 

IV. Conclusion 60 



ii 



Introduction 

Ten to twenty feet of cloth, neatly folded and wrapped around one's head until it 
completely covers one's hair. This particular headdress has been worn for hundreds of 
years and for a variety of reasons — from protection against the weather to signifying 
royal status. 

For members of the Sikh religion, however, the turban is not a fashion trend or 
indicia of social standing — it is an essential part of their faith. Sikhs are required to wear 
turbans pursuant to religious mandate. They consider it to be an outward manifestation of 
their devotion to God and solemn adherence to the strictures of their religion. It has been 
this way ever since the Sikh religion was formally established in the Punjab region of 
South Asia in 1699. 

Over three hundred years later, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 
September 11, 2001, the turban has been assigned a different meaning. In contemporary 
post-9/11 America, the perceived similarity of Sikhs with turbans to Osama bin Laden 
has made the turbaned Sikhs, already one of the most visible minority groups in the 
United States, a superficial and accessible proxy for the elusive bin Laden and his distant 
al-Qaeda regime. 3 

As a result, some Americans have directed their post-9/11 rage towards Sikhs. In 
particular, Sikhs with turbans in the United States have been murdered, stabbed, 
assaulted, verbally harassed, discriminated against in the workplace, and refused service 
in places of public accommodation, among other things. 

At the same time, turbaned Sikh-Americans have also faced a broader attack on 
their identity, leading them to question whether and to what extent their faith is 
compatible with Western society. In several democratic nations, conspicuous religious 
clothing, especially the Muslim veil, are considered marks of separation and 
demonstrative proof of a stubborn refusal to assimilate into mainstream society. This 
largely European debate concerning the proper balance between multiculturalism and 
integration has necessarily placed visible articles of faith, including the Sikh turban, 
under intense scrutiny in the United States as well. 

These tangible and intellectual challenges to the Sikh turban 4 have resulted in 
serious consequences for turbaned Sikhs in America. More than physical violence, Sikhs 



3 See Leti Volpp, The Citizen and the Terrorist, 49 UCLA L. Rev. 1575, 1590 (2002) 
("Sikh men, who are religiously mandated to wear turbans, have been conflated with 
Osama Bin Laden and have suffered significant violence[.]"). 

4 As used in this Article, the "tangible" challenge is characteristically direct in nature, is 
generally carried out by ordinary citizens, and its immediate impact is local, that is to the 
victims and to members of the Sikh community in that region, though the long-term 
aggregate effects may be broader. The "intellectual" challenge is, by contrast, more 
abstract in nature, is generally engaged in by government agents or influential media 
outlets, and is, at a minimum, national in terms of impact, due to the question of whether 
individuals who wear certain religious clothing should be permitted to wear those articles 
of faith in a particular society. 



1 



in America are wondering whether they are truly members of this political community 5 
and whether the American legal system is sufficient to protect them from the post-9/11 
emotion. 6 They are also wrestling with the importance of the turban itself, despite the 
longstanding belief that it must be worn. In short, the Sikh sense of belonging to the 
American experiment, their faith in the rule of law in America, and Sikh identity itself are 
in jeopardy. 

The central purpose of this Article is to examine the turban as a sacred piece of 
attire for Sikhs and as a target for discriminatory conduct and an object of 
marginalization after 9/11. While the post-9/11 backlash has been discussed in other 

8 9 

contexts, particularly as it relates to Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians, serious study 



See Videotape, Dastaar: Defending Sikh Identity, available at 
http://www.mrsildinet.com/index.php/2006/08/23/dastaar-defending-sikh-identity 
[hereinafter Dastaar Video]. Amric Singh Rathour, a turbaned Sikh who was asked to 
remove his turban in order to serve with the New York Police Department, noted, 
"[w]hen you're ridiculed and discriminated against, you feel inhuman, you feel different, 
and you want to feel the same. Even though I was born and raised here, I felt that this 
wasn't my country." Id. 

6 For example, previous legal commentary has indicated that it is unclear whether 
American law would prohibit legislation similar to the French ban on conspicuous 
articles of faith in public schools, which includes a ban on Sikh turbans. See infra Part 

in. 

See Jeremy Page, Sikhs head for the barber and turn their backs on tradition, Times 
Online (UK), Nov. 24, 2006, available at 

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article648044.ece [hereinafter Sikhs 
head for the barber]. "Western intolerance of religious symbols and a series of street 
attacks are prompting young men to shed their hair and turbans .... Many young Sikh 
men who have cut their hair say that they did so to escape the humiliation of turban 
searches at Western airports or to avoid being mistaken for Muslims. They cite Balbri 
[sic] Singh Sodi [sic], a petrol station owner shot dead in Arizona on September 15, 2001. 
His American killer, bent on revenge for 9/11, thought that Mr Sodi's [sic] turban 
indicated that he was an Arab .... But worrying as racist attacks are, Sikh elders are 
even more concerned by a broader official crackdown on overt expressions of religious 
identity in the West, especially in Europe." Id. 

Existing articles have discussed, for example: 

1) Racial profiling, including: Racial Farah Brelvi, Un-American Activities: Racial 
Profiling and the Backlash after Sept. 11, 48 Fed. Law. 69 (2001) (offering a critical 
analysis of racial profiling during times of war); Thomas M. McDonnell, Targeting the 
Foreign Born by Race and Nationality: Counter-Productive in the "War on Terrorism, " 
16 Pace Int'l L. Rev. 19 (2004) (criticizing the effectiveness and morality of profiling 
of Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asians in the aftermath of 9/1 1); 

2) Government policies, including immigration: Muneer I. Ahmad, A Rage Shared by 
Law: Post-September 11 Racial Violence as Crimes of Passion, 92 Cal. L. Rev. 1259 



2 



of Sikhs, the community that is said to have "borne the disproportionate brant of hate 
violence in the aftermath of September ll," 10 has not been offered. 11 This Article 



(Oct. 2004) (discussing public and private racial violence against Muslims, Arabs, South 
Asians, and Sikhs after 9/11); Sameer M. Asha, Immigration Enforcement and 
Subordination: The Consequences of Racial Profiling after September 11, 34 Conn. L. 
Rev. 1185 (2002) (discussing immigration enforcement following the 9/11 attacks); 

3) Identity issues: Volpp, supra note 3, at 1526 ("suggesting] that September 11 
facilitated the consolidation of a new identity category that groups together persons who 
appear Middle Eastern, Arab, or Muslim, whereby members of this group are identified 
as terrorists and dis-identified as citizens."); Jagdish J. Bijlani, Neither Here Nor There: 
Creating a Legally and Politically Distinct South Asian Racial Identity, 16 Berkeley La 
Raza L.J. 53, 54 (2005) (exploring "the argument that because of their collective 
racialized experience, South Asians should be identified as a legally and politically 
distinct racial group for the limited purpose of encouraging group empowerment."); and 

4) Civil liberties generally after 9/11: Erwin Chemerinsky, Civil Liberties and the War on 
Terrorism, 45 Washburn L.J. 1 (2005) (arguing that civil liberties are in a state of peril 
after 9/11). 

9 A number of excellent resources exist on challenges to these communities after 9/11. 
See Deborah Ramirez & Stephanie Woldenberg, Balancing Security and Liberty in a 
Post-September 11th World: The Search for Common Sense in Domestic 
Counterterrorism Policy, 14 Temp. Pol. & Civ. Rts. L. Rev. 495, 495 (2005) (arguing 
that "racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims does not make operational sense because it 
fails to help in narrowing down a list of potential terrorist subjects and succeeds only in 
alienating . . . the largely untapped linguistic and cultural expertise that the Arab and 
Muslim communities can bring to the table with law enforcement in a joint effort to 
prevent future acts of terrorism."); Susan M. Akram & Kevin R. Johnson, Race, Civil 
Rights, and Immigration Law After September 11, 2001: The Targeting of Arabs and 
Muslims, 58 N.Y.U. Ann. Surv. Am. L. 295 (2002) (examining the demonization of 
Arabs and Muslims); Dalia Hashad, Stolen Freedoms: Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians 
in the Wake of Post 9/11 Backlash, 81 Denv. U. L. Rev. 735, 735 (2004) (chronicling 
"government-instituted discrimination and racist implementation of policy" after 9/11). 

10 Ahmad, supra note 8, at 1330 n.174 ("Many Sikh men, who wear turbans and long 
beards, were targeted in post- September 1 1 hate violence because they were mistaken to 
be Muslim. As a result, Sikhs have borne the disproportionate brunt of hate violence in 
the aftermath of September 11."). See Tamar Lewin & Gustav Niebuhr, A Nation 
Challenged: Violence, Attacks, and Harassment Continue on Middle Eastern People and 
Mosques, N.Y. Times, Sept. 18, 2001, at B5 ("Perhaps even more than Muslims, Sikhs in 
the United States have been singled out for harassment since the terrorist attacks, perhaps 
because the long beards and turbans prescribed by their Indian religion give them a visual 
resemblance to the terrorist Osama bin Laden and the Taliban."); Laurie Goodskin, 
American Sikhs Contend They Have Become a Focus of Profiling at Airports, N.Y. 
Times, Nov. 10, 2001, at B6 ("Sikh travelers say that since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 
they have been singled out for questioning by the police and security workers at 



3 



represents a modest attempt to shed light on a group whose experiences have largely been 
subsumed in broader discussions of post-9/11 issues, including bias incidents and legal 
responses. 

Over a hundred years after Sikhs first set foot in America, they continue to 
experience discrimination, suggesting strongly that ignorance about Sikhs and the 
significance of their turban is still rampant in the West. Precisely because of this 
ignorance and continuing discriminatory conduct against Sikhs, a meaningful overview 
of Sikhism and the Sikh turban should be offered not only for the benefit of those 
interested in civil rights and pluralism, but also for those who represent or hear cases 

1 2 

against Sikhs. Indeed, as Amardeep Singh, Executive Director of the Sikh Coalition, a 



American airports."); U.S. Sikhs Bear Brunt of Backlash, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2001, 
available at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/09/24/archive/main312265.shtml 
("[M]any Sikhs say they have been singled out most; they blame their resemblance to the 
suspected perpetrator, Osama bin Laden, who also has a flowing beard and wears a 
turban. 'The picture of Osama bin Laden is constantly being flashed on TV sets,' says 
Prabhjot Singh, director of the United Sikhs In Service of America (USSA), a prominent 
Sikh organization. Ironically, he says, Sikhs here look more like bin Laden than most 
Muslims do."). Cf. Karen Engle, Constructing Good Aliens and Good Citizens: 
Legitimizing the War on Terror(ism), 75 U. COLO. L. Rev. 59, 98 (2004) ("Whether 
through government investigations and raids or 'private' vigilance, the brunt of the 
internal war has fallen on Muslims, particularly those of Arab descent (now that 
Americans seem to have learned the difference between Sikhs and Muslims)."); Susan 
Martin & Philip Martin, International Migration and Terrorism: Prevention, Prosecution 
and Protection, 18 Geo. Immigr. L.J. 329, 342 (2004) ("An Amnesty International report 
issued the first week in October 2001 cited more than 540 attacks on Arab- Americans 
and at least 200 on Sikhs in the week following the attacks on the World Trade Center 
and Pentagon."). 

11 Perhaps the article that comes close to achieving the purpose of this essay is Mark 
Stromer, Note, Combating Hate Crimes against Sikhs: A Multi-Tentacled Approach, 9 J. 
Gender Race & Just. 739 (2006), which describes the backlash against Sikhs generally, 
but focuses on one aspect of the backlash (i.e., hate crimes) and argues how hate crimes 
legislation may be improved. 

12 

The purpose of Parts I & II is to achieve greater understanding of Sikhs, not to 
differentiate Sikhs from any other group, including Muslims, such that other groups are 
to be thought of as the more appropriate objects of post-9/11 animus. Some Sikhs in 
America have engaged in the enterprise of deflecting negative attention away from 
themselves and towards Muslims. See Volpp, supra note 3, at 1590 (commenting on 
Sikhs and South Asians claiming, in response to racial attacks, that they have been 
misidentified, "rather than condemning] violence regardless of its target"); Gregory 
Rodriguez, Aftermath: Identify Yourself: Who's American?, N.Y. Times, Sept. 23, 2001, 
at Al ("Since the Sept. 1 1 attacks, there has been a notable number of hate crimes against 
Arab-Americans and Muslims. Frightened by a wave of violence, American Sikhs are 
explaining to the public that despite their turbans and beards, they are not Muslims[.]"). 



4 



leading Sikh advocacy organization, noted, "Litigation in the Sikh community is unlike 
litigation in any other community you can think of because what we're doing ... is 
beyond arguing the law; we're giving a little mini-history and religion lesson" on the 
Sikhs. 13 "How can you apply the law against a group you don't understand?" he added. 
Part I will thus present an introduction to Sikhism, including its founding, doctrinal 
development, and the historical establishment of the requirement for adherents to wear 
turbans. It will also describe the symbolic importance and physical aspects of the Sikh 
turban. 

Part II of this Article will summarize prominent incidents 15 in several areas in 
which Sikhs with turbans have been subject to discriminatory conduct in post-9/11 
America: 16 harassment, detention by law enforcement, racial violence, denial of entry 
into public places, employment discrimination, and airport profiling. These incidents 
cover not only a wide range of discriminatory behavior, but also span each of the years 
since the 9/1 1 attacks. As such, this section will convey both the scope and continuing 
nature of the post-9/11 backlash against Sikhs. In addition to the factual circumstances, 
actual and possible legal resolutions of the incidents will also be mentioned, where 
appropriate. 

Part III will examine the Western debate surrounding assimilation, spurred on by 
the specter of terrorist activity after 9/11 and the London bombings of July 7, 2005. The 
notion that religious minority groups should abandon their articles of faith in order to 
adopt a more homogeneous, national appearance has called into question not only the 
Muslim veil, but also the Christian cross, the Jewish yarmulke, and the Sikh turban. This 
section will discuss how several Western democracies initially absorbed the entry of 
Sikhs to their nations, the global challenge to religious identity after 9/11, and finally 
whether the American legal apparatus could tolerate some of the drastic restrictions to 



This Article attempts no such thing. Again, the intent in crafting Parts I & II is to educate 
the reader about one group, not to isolate or endanger another. 

13 Dastaar Video, supra note 5 (Statement of Amardeep Singh, Executive Director, Sikh 
Coalition). 



These examples were selected in consultation with the executive directors of the two 
leading Sikhs civil rights organizations assisting Sikhs after 9/11, Rajbir Singh Datta of 
the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Amardeep Singh of the Sikh 
Coalition. 

16 It should be noted that not all Sikhs wear turbans. See Sikhs head for the barber, supra 
note 7. In fact, some Sikhs have cut their hair in direct response to the treatment they 
received after the 9/11 attacks. See Michael Winerip, The High Cost of Looking Like an 
Ail-American Guy, N.Y. Times, Oct. 21, 2001, at A33 (noting that a young Sikh man cut 
his hair after being subject to harassment). In each of the incidents described in this 
Article, however, Sikhs with turbans are the targets of the discriminatory actions. 



5 



religious attire that have been enacted elsewhere in the wake of 9/11. Part IV will 
conclude. 

Before we begin this discussion, a few cautionary statements are in order. First, 
the scope of this Article is limited to challenges to turbaned Sikhs in the context of the 
post-9/1 1 backlash in America. As a result, it does not focus on other groups that have 
also been subject to acts of hate and to calls to integrate, including Muslims, Arabs, and 

17 

South Asians. Second, this Article does not dismiss the difficult circumstances that the 
country finds itself in following the terrorist attacks in Washington, New York, and 
Pennsylvania. Third, this Article acknowledges that those circumstances have given way 

1 8 

to encouraging developments, with the backlash reportedly waning, leading public 
figures to appeal for tolerance 19 and reach out to targeted groups, 20 and federal courts 



This is not an exclusive list of communities subject to post-9/11 discrimination. See 
Volpp, supra note 3, at 1599 n.2 ("Persons of many different races and religions have 
been attacked as presumably appearing 'Middle Eastern, Arab, or Muslim.' South Asians, 
in particular, along with Arabs and persons of Middle Eastern descent, have been subject 
to attack, although Latinos and African Americans have also been so identified."). 

18 

See Eric Treene, American Muslims and Civil Rights: Testimonies and Critiques, 19 
J.L. & Religion 89, 89 (2003-2004) ("After 9/1 1 we saw a sharp spike in bias-crimes 
against Muslims and Arab- Americans, as well as those perceived to be Muslim or Arab, 
such as Sikhs, who are targeted because of their distinctive turbans. Thankfully, this spike 
in bias crimes has subsided to roughly pre-9/11 levels, although we do not have accurate 
statistics on bias crimes against Arab and Muslim Americans before 9/11 to provide a 
baseline for comparison."); Stephen J. Ellmann, Changes in the Law Since 9/11: Racial 
Profiling and Terrorism, 19 N.Y.L. Sch. J. Hum. Rts. 305, 360 n.43 (2003) ("A count by 
my research assistant of the airport incident reports, however, strongly suggests that this 
problem has now been addressed[.]") [hereinafter Ellmann]. 

19 See Press Release, President Pledges Assistance for New York in Phone Call with 
Pataki, Giuliani, White House, Sept. 13, 2001, available at 
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010913-4.html ("our nation must 
be mindful that there are thousands of Arab Americans who live in New York City who 
love their flag just as much as the three of us do. And we must be mindful that as we 
seek to win the war that we treat Arab Americans and Muslims with the respect they 
deserve. I know that is your attitudes, as well; it's certainly the attitude of this 
government, that we should not hold one who is a Muslim responsible for an act of 
terror."). See also, Continuing Story: Elected Officials Respond to Backlash The 
Pluralism Project, http://www.pluralism.org/news/index.php ?xref=Elected+Officials+Res 
pond+to+Backlash (other statements by elected officials responding to backlash post 
September 11). 

20 

See Hon. Mary Murphy Schroeder, Guarding Against the Bigotry that Fuels Terrorism, 
48 Fed. Law. 26, 27 Dec. (2001) (noting that "by visiting a mosque soon after the 
attacks, the President sent a good signal."). 



6 



writing in defense of pluralism and the religious freedom of Sikhs. That said, this 
Article discusses ongoing challenges to the Sikh turban despite these efforts. Moreover, 
remaining challenges may intensify and new ones may arise if future attacks occur. Thus, 
attempts to foster understanding of Sikh identity and the Sikh experience continue to be 

22 

relevant and necessary. 



21 See U.S. v. James, 328 F.3d 953, 957 (7th Cir. 2003) ("Tolerance usually is the best 
course in a pluralistic nation. Accommodation of religiously inspired conduct is a token 
of respect for, and a beacon of welcome to, those whose beliefs differ from the 
majority' s[.]"). See also Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, Multani 
c. Marguerite-Bourgeoys, 264 D.L.R. 4th 577 (2006) (The Court held that "an absolute 
prohibition against wearing a kirpan infringes the freedom of religion of the student in 
question under section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [hereinafter 
Canadian Charter]. The infringement cannot be justified under section 1 of the Canadian 
Charter, since it has not been shown that such a prohibition minimally impairs the 
student's rights."). 

22 The potential for racial violence arguably exists as long as the possibility of war or 
crisis exists, thus rendering individual incidents of a backlash worthy of our attention, 
such that we may learn from our mistakes and refuse in the future to manifest national 
anger, fear, and ignorance in the form of discriminatory actions. See William H. 
Rehnquist, All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime 221 (2000) (arguing 
that the nation's past will not repeat itself); see also Mark V. Tushnet, Defending 
Korematsu? Reflections on Civil Liberties in Wartime, 2003 Wis. L. Rev. 273, 273 
(2003) (arguing that we have learned from our past mistakes only not to repeat those 
precise mistakes, rather than more general lessons). 



7 



I. Sikhism and the Sikh Turban 

Truth is high, but higher still is truthful living. 23 

- Guru Nanak 



A. Founding and Early Development of Sikhism 

In 1469, a man named Nanak was born in Punjab — the region now split between 

24 

present-day northwest India and eastern Pakistan. Historians contend that Nanak lived 
in a time of "tumult of hate and falsehood" involving Hindus and Muslims, where tension 
existed between the two communities and where the religious practices of both groups 

25 

were generally becoming more ritualistic and less meaningful. At the age of 30, Nanak 
emerged from a period of intense meditation with a vision of unity and spiritual 
renaissance: "There is no Hindu, there is no Mussulman," he declared. 2 

According to Sikh history, at this age, Nanak also penned a brief verse that is 
recognized as the fundamental summation of Sikh philosophy and theology. Hence, this 

27 

verse is called the mul mantar, or "root formula." The importance of the mul mantar in 
Sikhism is clear, as it serves as the opening passage to the Sikh holy book, the Sri Guru 
Granth Sahib, which totals 1,430 pages. 28 The text of the mul mantar, as translated to 
English, is as follows: 

God is only One. 
His name is True. 
He is the Creator. 



~ Sikh Values, sikh.net (2002), available at http : // w w w . sikh .net/Sikhvalu.htm 
[hereinafter Sikh Values]. 

24 

See Stromer, supra note 11, at 741; Jaideep Singh, Wo Sikh Jose:' Sikh American 
Community Mobilization and Interracial Coalition Building in the Construction of a 
Sacred Site, 8 Asian Pac. Am. L.J. 173, 175 (Spring 2002). 

25 Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, Vol. 1: 1469-1839, 29 (1978). 

26 Id. at 32-33. 

27 

Pashaura Singh, Sikhism and Restorative Justice: Theory and Practice, in The 
Spiritual Roots of Restorative Justice 204 (Michael L. Hadley ed., State University 
of New York Press 2001). 

28 

See Satvinder S. Juss, The Constitution and Sikhs in Britain, 1995 B.Y.U. L. Rev. 481, 
492(1995). 



8 



He is without fear. 
He is inimical to none. 
He never dies. 

He is beyond births and deaths. 
He is self-illuminating. 

He is realized by the kindness of the True Guru. 

Repeat his Name. 

He was True in the Beginning. 

He was True when the ages commenced and has ever been True. 
He is also True now. 

Nanak says that He will certainly be True in the future. 

In addition, Nanak established what are generally understood to be the three 
essential aspects of Sikh life: 1) remembering and meditating upon God's Name (naam 
japna); 2) living a truthful and honest life (kirat karni); and 3) giving one's resources and 

an 

labor to help others in the community, particularly the less fortunate (vand ke chhakna): 

3 1 

These three activities blend solitary reflection with active service to society. 

Nanak also believed in the equality of all people, including the downtrodden/ 
This was a groundbreaking principle, given the rigid social hierarchy that existed at the 

33 

time. As a result of this doctrinal tenet, Nanak contended that every person, regardless 
of circumstance, could realize God by following the three aforementioned rules. He also 
rejected all forms of caste systems 34 and extolled the equality of the sexes, a progressive 



Select Writings: Japji Sahib by Guru Nanak Dev, The Sikhism Home Page, 1998, 
available at http://www.sikhs.org/japii/jpl.htm . 

Wand Kay Shako, SikhiWiki, Nov. 8, 2006, available at 
http ://w w w . sikhiwiki ■org/index.php?title=Wand_kay_Shako . 

1 See Khushwant Singh, supra note 25, at 39-43 (elaborating on the teachings of Nanak, 
including "strict monotheis[m]," rejection of "ascetic isolation" and social "detachment," 
and belief in "righteous conduct towards one's neighbors".). 

See id. at 43 ("Nanak' s writings abound with passages deploring the [caste] system and 
other practices which grew out of the caste concepts[.]"). 

it 

" See id. at 97 (noting that, despite the social order that was embedded in Punjab, "The 
doors of Sikh temples were thrown open to everyone and in the Guru's langar [or free 
kitchen] the Brahmin and the untouchable broke their bread as members of the same 
family."). 

34 See id. 



9 



position at the time. 

Nanak spread his message across South Asia and the Middle East, traveling from 
the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains to Baghdad and as far south as Sri Lanka. 36 

37 

Mardana, a Muslim and a trained musician, usually accompanied Nanak. Nanak' s 
teachings were thus recited to music, making the hymns easier for the masses to 

38 

memorize. 

Nanak became the first of ten teachers, or Gurus, whose disciples were named 

3Q 

"Sikhs," literally students or seekers of truth. Nanak, the man, is therefore called "Guru 
Nanak." While Nanak and the Gurus are revered by Sikhs, Nanak made it clear that the 
Gurus were "ordinary" men, not supernatural figures to be idolized. 40 

The nine Gurus that followed Nanak continued to develop his message and 
expanded the faith's base. 41 The fifth Guru, Arjun, was a prolific proponent of Nanak' s 
philosophy and authored a majority (2,218) of the hymns that are in the Sri Guru Granth 

42 

Sahib, Sikhism's holy text. Importantly, Arjun is known for refusing to give in to the 
demands of the Mughal 43 Emperor of the time, Jahangir, who was concerned about the 



See Jaideep Singh, supra note 24, at 175 (noting that Guru Nanak "proclaimed 
[women] the equals of men in every respect— political, social, and religious— over two 
and a half centuries before the founding of the United States."). 

36 See Khushwant Singh, supra note 25, at 33-34. 

37 Id. at 31. 

38 Id. 

39 

See SikhiWiki, Glossary of Sikh Terms (last modified Oct. 18, 2007), available at 
http://sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Glossary of Sikh Terms (defining a "Sikh" as Literally 
"student, disciple" .... [A] Sikh is someone who believes in God, the ten Sikh Gurus, in 
the Guru Granth Sahib, in the importance of the Khalsa initiation, and in no other 
religion; "Seeker of Truth"). 

40 See Khushwant Singh, supra note 25, at 34 ("[T]he guru, insisted Nanak, was to be 
regarded as a guide and not as a god. He was to be consulted and respected but not 
worshipped."). 

41 For a brief overview of the contributions and lives of each Guru, see The Sikhism 
Home Page, The Sikh Gurus, available at: http ://w w w . sikhs .org/ 1 Ogurus .htm (last 
visited: Nov. 30, 2007). 

Sri Guru Granth Sahib: Authors & Contributors, The Sikhism Home Page (1998), 
available at http ://w w w . sikhs .org/granth2 .htm . 

43 The Mughals were adherents of Islam. See National Library of Medicine, Islamic 
Medical Manuscripts, Glossary of Terms (Feb. 23, 2006), available at 
http : //www. nlm. nih . go v/hmd/arabic/glo s s ary .html (noting that the term "Mughal" is a 



10 



spread of Sikhism. Arjun refused to convert to Islam and was eventually tortured to 
death by Jahangir in 1606. 44 

Whereas Arjun adopted a pacifist approach to Mughal demands, the sixth Guru, 
Hargobind, advanced a more aggressive approach to threats from the Mughal 
leadership. 45 While Arjun calmly chose death over conversion to Islam, Hargobind 
thought that Sikhs were morally obligated to defend their faith. 46 Hargobind, for 
example, asked Sikh followers to donate weapons and horses, with which he established 
a cavalry. 7 This militaristic mentality was later embraced by the tenth Guru, Gobind 
Singh. 48 

Gobind Singh led the Sikh people after his father, Tegh Bahadur, who was 
beheaded at the command of the Muslim emperor, Aurangzeb. 49 Gobind Singh, a fierce 
warrior, created a religious army to resist the persecution by the Mughal rulers. On or 
about April 14, 1699, Gobind Singh called together approximately 80,000 Sikhs in the 
small town of Anandpur in Punjab, "specifically exort[ing] the Sikhs to come with their 
hair and beards unshorn." 50 There, Gobind Singh formally organized Sikhs into an army 
of God, a community of saint-soldiers, known as the Khalsa, or the pure. 51 Gobind Singh 



"name given the Muslim rulers, or emperors, who controlled western India, with 
decreasing effectiveness, from 1526 to 1858 (932-1274 H)."). 

44 Martyrdom of Guru Arjun Saheb Ji-Part 2, Gurmat Studies Foundation, July 2003, 
available at http://www.gurmatstudies.eom/articles/5 gurul .htm . 

45 See Juss, supra note 28 at 491. 

46 Guru Hargobind Sahib, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee ("Guru Sahib 
converted the peaceful sect into a warlike community, ready to defend their interests with 
the swords and it was the need of the hour.") available at 
http://www.sgpc.net/gurus/guruhargobind.asp . 

47 See Prithi Pal Singh, The History of Sikh Gurus, 81 (2007) (noting that Guru 
Hargobind "advised his followers to make offerings of arms, weapons, and horses."). 

48 See Juss, supra note 28 at 491 (identifying Guru Hargobind and Guru Gobind Singh as 
the only two Sikh Gurus who "took up arms."). 

49 See Khushwant Singh, supra note 25, at 74-76. 

50 See id. at 82; see also Sikhs and the Arts of Punjab, Victoria and Albert Museum, 
available at 

http://vanda.london.museum/vastatic/microsites/1162 sikhs/sikhism/sikhism.htm . 

51 Gobind Singh instructed all Sikh men to adopt the surname "Singh" (meaning lion) and 
all women the surname "Kaur" (meaning lioness or princess). See Juss, supra note 28 at 
533 n. 42 (This was done again to abolish any distinctions, based on caste or occupation, 
and to foster a sense of unity.); Michael Rosensaft, The Right of Men to Change their 



11 



bestowed upon all Sikhs the duty to follow Nanak's teachings and to fight injustice in all 

52 

of its forms, a principle originally set forth by Hargobind and made even more pressing 
after the death of Tegh Bahadur. 

All members of the Khalsa were instructed by Gobind Singh to keep five articles 
of faith — also called the "5 K's," these five articles are: unshorn hair (kes), a small comb 
to keep the hair neat (khanga), a steel bracelet (kara), a ceremonial dagger or sword 

53 

(kirpan), and long underwear (kaachera). These constitute the fundamental elements of 
the "uniform" of the Khalsa. 54 



B. Significance and Physical Aspects of the Sikh Turban 

Though the turban is not one of the 5 K's, wearing of the turban was nonetheless 
included in the Sikh Code of Conduct, or Rehat Maryada, a codification of the rules of 
proper Sikh conduct that were promulgated by the Gurus. 55 The meaning of the 5 K's 
have been the subject of considerable discussion, as historians are generally not in 
agreement as to why these specific items were selected by Gobind Singh. 56 Scholars 



Names upon Marriage, 5 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 186, 191 (2002) ("Among the Sikhs, in 
India and around the world, all women adopt the surname Kaur and all men adopt the 
surname Singh to show a renouncement of family lineage and to create a casteless 
society."). 

52 See I. J. Singh, The Sikh Way: A Pilgrim's Progress 85 (2001) ("The Khalsa was 
created to protect, not possess, to defend, not conquer, any people or their territory."). 
Chapter Nine of this book also contains an in-depth account of the events and 
significance of April 13, 1699. 

" See Khushwant Singh, supra note 25, at 84. See also Cheema v. Thompson, 67 F.3d 
883, 884 (9th Cir. 1995) (listing the "5 K's"). 

54 See Stromer, supra note 11, at 742 ("Guru Gobind also stated that the Guru-hood 
would forever reside in the collected poems and sayings of the Gurus and other spiritual 
luminaries (including Hindus and Sufis), which is known as the Guru Granth Sahib."). 
Sikhs pray and meditate on the verses in this holy book in a gurdwara, or temple. See 
The Sikhism Home Page, Gurdwaras, available at http://www.sikhs.org/gurdwara.htm . 

55 See Rahitnama Prahlad Rai & Bhai Nand Lai, Sikh Code of Conduct No. 14152 bb2, 
translated in Trilochan Singh, The Turban and the Sword of the Sikhs: Essence 
of Sikhism 303 (1997) ("Cursed is a Sikh who goes out in the society without a turban or 
wears a cap instead of a turban."). 

56 See id. at 86, n.20. 



12 



similarly have provided several theories as to why the turban is an integral part of a 

57 

Sikh's "religious and cultural personality." 

First, there is the practical justification that kes, one of the five Sikh articles of 

CO 

faith, should be kept tidy and that the turban may guard the hair from the elements. 
Second, the turban ensures a common, visible identity for all Sikhs. 59 Third, the turban 
signifies equality. 60 It is not reserved for the aristocracy or social elite, as it had been 
before. Fourth, as Sikhs may be identified on the basis of their turban, the turban makes 
every member of the faith an ambassador of Sikhism. 61 Fifth, and relatedly, the easily 
recognizable aspects of the turban and a Sikh's distinct appearance serve as "helpful 
deterrents against undesirable acts and behaviour [sic] and keep [Sikhs] on the right 
path." 62 It is a reminder to the Sikh that he is to act in accordance with the teachings of 
the Gurus and that any transgressions may be easily noted by non-Sikhs who can quickly 



Id. at 228. 

58 W.H. McLeod, Sikhs and the Turban, in Sikh: Forms and Symbols 95, 103-04 
(Mohinder Singh ed., 2000). In addition to providing such protection, W.H. McLeod, a 
preeminent British historian who studied the Sikhs during the British Empire, identifies a 
number of reasons why the turban is desirable for Sikh men today. These include: 
because the turban is hygienic, because it is comfortable in hot and cold weather, because 
it is easy and inexpensive to learn, because it is firmly fixed on the head, and because it is 
more suitable than the bare head for people dealing with food. 

59 See Manvir Singh Khalsa, Who Are Sikhs?, Oxford Sikhs (Mar. 20, 2005), available at 
http://www.oxfordsikhs.eom/SikhAwareness/l 17.aspx ("The turban and unshorn hair is 
part of the Sikh uniform."). 

60 See SikhCoalition.org, Sikh Theology: Why Sikhs Wear a Turban, The Sikh Coalition, 
available at http://www.sikhcoalition.org/Sikhisml 1 .asp [hereinafter Why Sikhs Wear a 
Turban]. ("The Sikh Gurus . . . sought to uplift the downtrodden and make them the 
equals of the highest of the high."). See also Jeremy Waldron, One Law for All? The 
Logic of Cultural Accommodation, 59 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 3, 7 (2002) ("[T]he Sikh's 
religious obligation is an obligation to present himself in public as a combination of saint 
and warrior."). 

61 See Why Sikhs Wear a Turban, supra note 60, ("[T]here is a great deal of 
responsibility accompanied by the turban. A person's actions are no longer just tied to 
him or her. Since Sikhs who wear the turban represent the Guru, their actions too reflect 
on the Guru and the Sikh Nation."). 

62 Ganda Singh, Importance of Hair and Turban in Sikh: Forms and Symbols, supra 
note 58, at 39, 43. 



13 



spot a Sikh. Sixth, as a Sikh is easily identifiable, anyone who was being persecuted, 
and needed help could quickly locate a Sikh who was obligated to help them. Seventh, 
the turban is an indication of the wearer's commitment to Sikhism, general discipline, 
and willpower to wear the turban in the face of persecution. 64 Sikhs with turbans may 
wear turbans for one or some combination of these reasons, though perhaps some Sikhs 
wear a turban simply to adhere to the religious mandate. 65 

Because Sikhs aren't permitted to cut their hair, their hair can grow quite long. 66 
A Sikh male therefore ties his hair into a knot towards the front of his head; the knot and 
surrounding hair on the male's head are then covered by a turban. 67 Although there are a 
number of different ways of tying a turban, generally, a Sikh adult wraps the cloth around 
the sides of his or her head several times until the cloth covers all of the hair and is then 
fastened under a preceding layer. 68 This process generally takes between ten and fifteen 
minutes to complete. 9 The wrapping of the different layers will generally create a 



See Why Sikhs Wear a Turban, supra note 60, ("[T]he turban serves to increase a 
Sikh's commitment to Sikhism and lends to him or her becoming a more disciplined and 
virtuous person."). 

64 See id. ("When many discarded their turbans, those that proudly adorned them in those 
times, even though it meant certain death, fully appreciated its significance. After all, it is 
in times of adversity that faith is tested and one must prove true to core values."). 

65 See Why Sikhs Wear a Turban, supra note 60 (claiming that "the reason all practicing 
Sikhs wear the turban is just one - out of love and obedience of the wishes of the founders 
of their faith."). 

66 See Commentary, Reflections on September 11: Reconsidering Social Change in the 
Wake of Tragedy, 26 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 431, 449 (2000-2001) ("Sikh men 
are very distinct in appearance because they are required by their religion not to cut their 
hair. They often have long beards and gather their long hair in V-shaped turbans."); 
Karen McBeth Chopra, Comment, A Forgotten Minority An American Perspective: 
Historical and Current Discrimination against Asians from the Indian Subcontinent, 
1995 Det. C.L. Mich. St. U. L. Rev. 1269, 1275 (Winter, 1995) (noting that Sikhs wear 
"turbans to cover their long hair[.]"). 

67 See Why do Sikhs wear turbans ? SikhNet, available at 

http://www.sikhnet.com/sAVhyTurbans ("The long hair of a Sikh is tied up in a Rishi 
knot (Joora) over the solar center (top of the head), and is covered with a turban, usually 
five meters of cotton cloth. (The man's solar center is nearer the front of the head. The 
woman's solar center is further back.)"). 

68 For specific instructions on tying a Sikh turban, see SikhNet, How to Tie a Turban, 
available at http://www.sikhnet.eom/s/tyingturbans . 

69 U.S. Department of Justice, Common Sikh American Head Coverings, available at 
http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/legalinfo/sikh poster.pdf [hereinafter DOJ Poster]. 



14 



"peaked" look to the turban, whereas turbans worn by other groups will not have this 
peak. A helpful guide published by the Seattle Times to help educate the public about 
Sikh turbans (called a dastaar, pagh, or paghri) after 9/11 illustrates the differences 

70 

between the "peaked" Sikh turban and other turbans. 

[25] Although some Sikh women wear turbans to cover their hair, many choose not 

71 

to. Generally, in the United States, female converts to Sikhism often wear turbans, 
while South Asian Sikh women tend to opt for a thin chiffon scarf, or chhuni, to cover 

72 

their hair. Sikh boys start wearing full turbans in their teenage years. Until then, they 
usually wear a patka, a smaller under-turban akin to a large bandana that is wrapped 
around the boy's knot and/or scalp. Adult male athletes may also wear a patka while 
they are playing sports or engaging in physically demanding activities. 74 



C. Turbans in Other Communities 

While the turban has special importance in the Sikh community, the turban is by 
no means an exclusively Sikh piece of attire. Turbans have been worn in different parts 



Eli Sanders, Understanding Turbans: Don't link them to terrorism, Seattle Times, 
Sept. 27, 2001, available at http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi- 
bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=turban270&date=20010927 . 
Accompanying images, available at 

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/news/lifestyles/links/turbans 27.html [hereinafter 
Understanding Turbans]. The purpose of these images and text is to educate the reader 
about Sikhs, not to differentiate Sikhs from other groups such that non-Sikhs should be 
thought of as the proper targets of post-9/1 1 hate. See Dastar Video, supra note 5. 

71 See Janet Caggiano, SIKH: The world's fifth-largest religion, Richmond Times- 
Dispatch, June 11, 2006, at G-l, available at 

http://www.saldef.org/content.aspx?a=1480&z=8&title=SIKH: The world (noting that 
"[w]earing a turban is optional for Sikh women[.]"). 

72 See I. J. Singh, Sikhs and Sikhism: A View with a Bias (1998), available at 
http://www.sikh.net/publications/View/symbols.htm ("Certainly there is no bar to women 
wearing a turban and some Sikh women in India do; almost all of the Western converts to 
Sikhism do."); see also DOJ Poster, supra note 69 (providing pictures of a Sikh- 
American convert wearing a turban and a South Asian Sikh wearing a headscarf). 

See DOJ Poster, supra note 69 (providing a picture of a Sikh boy wearing a patka). 

74 See James Lawton, Panesar's artistry offers England a turning point, Independent 
(UK), Dec. 1, 2006, available at 

http://sport.independent.co.uk/cricket/article2029219.ece (noting that Monty Panesar, a 
celebrated Sikh cricketer in England, wears a "bright blue patka"). 



15 



of the world for at least the past 3,000 years. Although it remains unclear when or 
where they originated, they were used in the Egyptian civilization, and depicted in 
Assyrian carvings — long before the advent of Christianity and Islam, let alone Sikhism. 76 
The Old Testament has a number of references to turbans, including a turban worn by 

77 

Moses as a symbol of his status as a prophet, holiness, and divine power. Wearing 
turbans is also closely related to Islam. A specific hadith, or an Islamic tradition, tied to 
the Prophet Muhammad, identifies turbans as being "a true mark of sovereignty and a 
crown. 

In South Asia, turbans were worn by a number of different groups for various 
reasons. The wealthy, for example, wore elaborate bejeweled turbans as a symbol of their 

7Q 

power, prestige, and royalty. Similarly, high caste Hindus wore turbans to differentiate 

80 

themselves from lower castes. More practically, men from the desert regions and rural 

8 1 

farmers wear turbans to protect themselves from dust and the heat. Men also swapped 

82 

their turbans to show good faith and hospitality in a dealing or agreement. Similarly, 
turbans may be worn by male members of bridal parties during Hindu wedding 

83 84 

ceremonies. Turbans have also been used to demonstrate one's political affiliation. 



75 

Eli Sanders, Understanding Turbans, supra note 70. 

76 Id. 

77 See Why Sikhs Wear a Turban, supra note 60. See also The Sikh Coalition, available 
at http://www. sikhcoalition.org/Sikhisml 1 .asp . 

78 

See Why Sikhs Wear a Turban, supra note 60. 

7Q 

See Understanding Turbans, supra note 70 (describing Indian men as "sometimes 
wear[ing] turbans to signify their class, caste, profession or religious affiliation"). 

80 Id. 

81 Id. ("Desert peoples have long used the turban to keep sand out of their faces[.]"). 

82 

See, e.g., The Koh-i-noor Diamond, BBC, June 6, 2002, available at 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A730801 (noting that, in 1739, Nadir Shah of Persia 
obtained the Koh-i-noor diamond by "exchanging] turbans," which "would symbolise 
their close ties and eternal friendship."). 

83 See I. J. Singh, Being and Becoming a Sikh 56 (2003). 

84 

See CNN.com, Why turban matters in Punjab polls, CNN-IBN, Feb. 7, 2007, available 
at http://www.ibnlive.com/news/why-turban-matters-in-puniab-polls/32933-4.html . 



16 



More recently, the turban has also emerged as a stylish accessory for American 

85 

artists. Legendary jazz musician Dr. Lonnie Smith wears an "authentic Sikh" turban 
apparently for "no particular reason." 6 In addition, Andre "3000" Benjamin, one half of 
the Grammy award winning hip-hop group Outkast, wanted to cover his hair as it grew 

87 

out and used the turban to serve this function because it "looked cool." A FOX News 
report noted that several celebrities, including Jennifer Lopez and Katie Holmes, have 
worn turbans, while "designers such as Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, and Prada are 

88 

offering fashionable turbans with a whopping $700 price tag." The report suggested 
that those wearing turbans should be mindful of the fact that the turban has "religious or 
cultural significance" and acknowledged that "turban-wearing" Sikhs have been attacked 
after 9/11. 



Bill Milkowski, Dr. Lonnie Smith: The Doctor Is In!, Jazz Times, Jan./Feb. 2005, 
available at 

http://iazztimes.com/columnS and features/table of contents/article excerpts/index.cfm 
?article id=15242 . 

86 For information on Dr. Lonnie Smith, see emusic.com, Dr. Lonnie Smith, available at 
http://www.emusic.eom/artist/l 1682/1 1 68229 l.html?fref =7006 10 . 

87 Mark Binelli, 'The Funk Soul Brothers," Rolling Stone, Mar. 18, 2004, available at 
http://www.rollingstone.eom/news/coverstorv/outkast_funk_soul_brothers/page/3 . 

88 Richelle Putnam, "Will Consumers Try The 'Turban' Look?", All Headline News, 
Feb. 7, 2007, available at http ://w w w . allheadlinenews .com/articles/7 0063 84944 . 



17 



II. The Tangible Challenge to the Sikh Turban: Violence and 
Discriminatory Conduct 



We must not descend to the level of those who perpetrated Tuesday 's violence by 
targeting individuals based on their race, their religion, or their national origin. 
Such reports of violence and threats are in direct opposition to the very 
principles and laws of the United States and will not be tolerated. 89 

- Attorney General John Ashcroft, 
on September 13, 2001 



Prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Sikhs with turbans encountered negative 
reactions to their distinct appearance in a variety of arenas. 90 September 11th, however 
dramatically worsened the frequency and severity of hostility against turbaned Sikhs. 91 
Turbans, as noted above, are not a uniquely Sikh item of clothing. Still, according to 
community advocates, 99% of people who wear turbans in America are Sikh. 



Janelle Brown, Anti-Arab passions sweep the U.S., Salon.COM, Sept. 13, 2001, 
available at http://archive.salon.com/news/feature/2001/09/13/backlash/index.html . 

90 See Bill Ong Hing, Vigilante Racism: The De-Americanization of Immigrant America, 
7 Mich. J. Race & L. 441, 446 (2002) ("As they have been recently, turban-wearing 
Sikhs were victimized historically. When they arrived in the 1800s, Sikh men continued 
to wear turbans, because not cutting their hair is a requirement of their religion. As a 
result, they endured being called 'ragheads.'"). Cf. Joan Jensen, Passage From India 
281 (1988) (noting that Indian professionals who took advantage of generous changes in 
immigration laws in the 1960's "experienced a relatively smooth transition from life in 
India to life in America. The professionals, who were mostly male college graduates 
between twenty and forty years of age, found well-paid employment in hospitals, 
corporations, and academic institutions.")- 

91 See D.C., M.D., and V.A. Advisory Comms., U.S. Comm'n on Civil Rights, Civil 
Rights, Concerns in the Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Area in the Aftermath 
of the September 11, 2001, Tragedies 1 (2003) [ hereinafter Civil Rights Commission 
Report] ("The attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 
2001, by terrorists from Middle Eastern countries led to a dramatic surge in hate violence 
and discrimination against people in the United States perceived to be of Arab or Muslim 
background . . . ."). 

92 See discussion of turbans in other communities, supra Part I. 

" See Amardeep Singh, Remarks at the Commissioners Meeting Open Session, U.S. 
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dec. 11, 2001, available at 
http ://w w w .eeoc . go v/abouteeoc/mee tings/ 12-11-01 -transcript.html ("I can say with great 
assurance that 99 percent of the persons who wear turbans in this country are Sikh 



18 



Those responsible for planning the 9/11 attacks, most notably bin Laden, also 
wear turbans and long beards. 94 This physical similarity resulted in a serious backlash 
against Sikhs, who are "conflated with bin Laden" and his cronies 95 — despite the separate 
doctrinal views, different geographic homeland, different native languages, and distinct 
turban styles of Sikhs. 96 

This section presents examples of anti-Sikh discrimination in America after 9/11 

97 

in multiple contexts. It also notes the actual and possible legal resolutions of the 
incidents, where appropriate. While this discussion focuses on Sikhs, it is important to 
remember that the post-9/1 1 backlash impacted not only Sikhs, but Muslims and all those 

no 

perceived to be Muslim, including Arabs and South Asians. 



Americans, and therein lines the very cruel irony of the Sikh American experience since 
the 11th."). 

94 According to one survey, "nine out of 10 educated Americans identified Sikhs with 
Muslims." Osama becomes a pain for American Sikhs, The Fin. Express, July 10, 2006, 
available at http://www.financialexpress.com/latest full story .php?content id=133438 . 

95 Volpp, supra note 3, at 1590. See also Stromer, supra note 11, at 740 ("Since the 
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, videos and images of Osama bin Laden have 
created an air of hostility towards Sikhs, with an uninformed American public equating 
the appearance of Sikh men with bin Laden' s beard and Afghani-style turban."). 

96 See discussion of Sikhs, supra Part I. See also Pratheep Sevanthinathan, Shifting from 
Race to Ethnicity in Higher Education, 9 SCHOLAR 1, 36 (2006) ("Although the Sikh 
are from northern India, speak languages altogether different than Arabic, and are not 
Islamic, most people who look at a Sikh will associate that person with an Arab country 
because Sikh's wear turbans, and turbans are commonly associated with Muslims."). The 
attack against turbaned Sikhs, who "stick out" because of their headdresses, is also 
curious given the fact that the al Qaeda operatives intended to blend into American 
society. See Migration Policy Institute, America's Challenges: Domestic 
Security, Civil Liberties, and National Unity after September 11 7 (2003), 
available at http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/Americas_Challenges.pdf ("al Qaeda' s 
hijackers were carefully chosen to avoid detection: all but two were educated young men 
from middle-class families with no criminal records and no known connection to 
terrorism."). 

Q7 

The individual incidents are discussed descriptively. Questions of larger responsibility 
for this backlash, including any government influence, is beyond the scope of this 
discussion. See Ahmad, supra note 8, at 1319 (exploring the relationship between the 
government response to terrorism and private reactions to Muslim-looking people). 

98 

Though the post-9/1 1 backlash has affected these groups, the exact number of bias 
incidents against them is unclear. See Rachel Saloom, / Know You Are, But What am I? 
Arab-American Experiences Through the Critical Race Theory Lens, 27 Hamline J. Pub. 
L. & Pol'y 55, 71 (2005) (claiming that Human Rights Watch "argues that the full extent 



19 



A. Harassment 

The concern that the physical resemblance of the Sikh turban to bin Laden would 
"have terrible repercussions" 99 for Sikhs was realized minutes after the World Trade 
Center was attacked: 100 

Amrik Singh Chawla, 33, had been headed downtown on business on the 
morning of September 11, 2001, when he learned that the World Trade 
Center was on fire. He was leaving the island on foot when he saw the 
second plane hit. After climbing out from under the scaffolding and 
helping a woman out from under some debris, he began his panicked 
journey off the island. Suddenly, as he rounded a corner on Broadway, 
two men approached him. One pointed at him and yelled, "Hey, you 
****ing terrorist, take that turban off!" They chased him into a subway 
station, where Amrik jumped on a train, narrowly escaping their angry 
threats. 101 



of post 9/11 hate crimes in America will never fully be understood because of 
underreporting."). Figures have ranged from around four-hundred to over a thousand 
hate crimes committed. Compare We Are Not the Enemy: Hate Crimes Against Arabs, 
Muslims, and Those Perceived to be Arab or Muslim After September 11, Human Rights 
Watch (Nov. 14, 2002), available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/usahate/ (noting 
that, according to the FBI, "anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States rose 1700%," 
from twenty-eight in 2000 to four-hundred-eighty-one in 2001) with Ahmad, supra note 
6, at 1261 ("[I]n the days and weeks after September 11, over one thousand bias incidents 
against Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians were reported."). 

99 Vijay Sekhon, Note, The Civil Rights of "Others": Antiterrorism, the Patriot Act, and 
Arab and South Asian American Rights in Post-9/11 American Society, 8 Tex. F. on C.L. 
& C.R. 1 17, 1 17 (Spring 2003). 

1 It should be noted that the summary of incidents in this section is intended to serve as 
a representative sample of the climate that Sikhs encountered after 9/11, and is in no way 
an attempt to serve as an exhaustive review of each incident, much less each type of 
incident, against a Sikh wearing a turban in the United States. For other incidents, see 
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Report on Hate Crimes and 
Discrimination Against Arab Americans : The Post-September 11 Backlash September 11, 
2001 - October 11, 2002" (Ibish, ed., 2003) [hereinafter ADC Report]; Sikh Coalition, 
Incidents and Hate Crimes, available at http ://w w w . sikhcoalition.org/ListReports . asp 
[hereinafter Sikh Coalition Database]. 

101 Press Kit, Divided We Fall 32, available at 
http://www.dwf-film.com/presskit/DWFPressKit.pdf. 



20 



Once Chawla arrived in Brooklyn, "he slipped into a shop, stuffed his turban into his 

102 

briefcase and wore his hair in a ponytail for the rest of the day." 

No legal action was taken against those who chased and verbally abused Chawla. 
This incident is significant in at least two respects. First, the attack on Sikhs with turbans 
occurred almost immediately after the towers were struck, meaning turbaned Sikhs were 
imperiled as soon as the attack occurred. As a result, the Sikh community had to rapidly 
mobilize, in an already emotional and uncertain moment, to educate others, appeal for 
tolerance, and assert their rights. Second, verbal harassment of Sikhs, such as being 
called "bin Laden," "raghead," or "towelhead," is commonplace, but generally happens 

103 

without any formal legal consequence. 

On September 14, 2001, Manga Singh, a cab driver in the New York City area, 
picked up a passenger who proceeded to reach through the open partition and tried to beat 
him with an umbrella while yelling, "I hate you, / hate you and your turban." 104 Manga 
Singh's father, Surinder Singh, "recalled a rider who said to him, 'You do [sic] that, you 
attacked the World Trade Center!'" He responded "No, I am an American Sikh . . . . 
Osama bin Laden has a turban, but it's very different." 105 There are no reports of legal 
action being pursued in this case either, again supporting the contention that verbal 
harassment, however hateful and hurtful, generally occurs without legal repercussions. 

Sikh youth are particularly vulnerable to being bullied by other students. For 
example, Mandeep Singh, a ninth grade student from the Philadelphia area, was regularly 
harassed in school. 106 He was called "bin Laden" and told to go back to "turbanland," 

1 07 

among other things. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission investigated the 



102 

Somini Sengupta, Arabs and Muslims Steer Through an Unsettling Scrutiny, N.Y 
Times, Sept. 13, 2001, available at 

http://querv.nvtimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9403E4DC1038F930A2575AC0A9679C 
8B63&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subiects/S/Sept.%201 1 ,%202001 . 

1 01 

See e.g., Beth Velliquette, 3 teens held in Sikh assault, The Herald-Sun (Durham, 
Chapel Hill, NC), Apr. 2, 2004 (discussing the story of turbaned Sikh, Gagandeep 
Bindra, who claimed that being called "Osama bin Laden" or "terrorist" was "a normal 
occurrence after 9/11" and whose harassers were apprehended only when assault was 
involved). 

104 Chastity Pratt and Melanie Lefkowitz, Arab, Shik [sic] Cabbies Offer Free Rides, 
Volunteers help families, hope to avoid harassment, Newsday, at W33, Sept. 16, 2001. 

105 Id. 

106 Coalition Helps End Student's Suffering From Bullying In School, The Sikh Coalition, 
Feb. 27, 2006 [hereinafter Coalition Helps End Student's Suffering] available at 
http://www.sikhcoalition.org/advisories/student_hair.htm . 

l07 Id. 



21 



matter and ordered an immediate end to the harassment. This case indicates that, in 
specialized institutional contexts, such harassment may be effectively addressed through 
formal means. 



B. Detention 

On September 12, 2001, Sher Singh, a turbaned Sikh man, was taken off an 
Amtrak train, bound from Boston to New York, in handcuffs. Members of the crowd that 
assembled during the arrest were reported as saying, "Kill him!", "Burn in Hell", and 
"You killed my brother." 109 The arresting officers joined in, asking Singh how bin Laden 
was doing. 11 News stations replayed the video of his arrest in connection with its 
coverage of the attacks, thus associating Singh with the terrorists that carried out the 
attacks. 111 Thus any connection between terrorists and a turbaned male with a long, 

119 

flowing beard was further embedded in the hearts and minds of emotional Americans. 



luy ADC Report, supra note 100, at 43. 

110 Id. 

111 See Jaideep Singh, Confronting Racial Violence: Sikh Americans Have Been Targeted 
for Harassment and Attack More Than Any Group Since 9/11, Colorlines Spring 2003, 
at 23-26 ("The news that a possible terrorist had been arrested spread like wildfire, and 
national media outlets quickly picked up the story. Almost immediately, video clips of a 
young man with a green turban and a long, flowing beard being led away in handcuffs 
flooded the airwaves. CNN, Fox, and the Associated Press carried video and photos of 
Sher Singh[.]"). 

112 

Speaking of media images, the relationship between turbans and terrorists was 
reinforced in the 2003 film, Dysfunktional Family, starring comedian Eddie Griffin. 
Specifically, Griffin points to a Sikh man wearing a turban and yells to him, "bin Laden, I 
knew you was [sic] around here!" See Petition to Miramax to stop spreading hate against 
Sikhs, The Sikh Coalition (Mar. 26, 2003), available at 
http : //www. sikhcoalition . org/miramax_petition . asp . The impact of this joke was 
increased by the fact that this particular scene was shown in commercials for the film, 
meaning that it appeared on television and to people who ultimately did not see the 
movie. See also Dawinder S. Sidhu, The Revolution Must be Televised: Can the arts 
succeed where political discussion falls short?, Pennsylvania Gazette, Mar ./Apr. 2004 
(arguing that including positive elements of South Asians in popular culture "represent a 
tremendous opportunity for South Asians ... to obviate the driving force behind the wave 
of post-9/11 hate crimes, namely ignorance."), available at 
http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/0304/0304voices.htmls . 



22 



Ultimately, it was announced that Singh was apprehended for carrying a 
concealed weapon, a kirpan, 113 which by definition was hidden under Singh's clothing 
and would only have been discovered after the swarm of officials aggressively ejected 
Singh from the train. 11 There was no reason — beyond the turban and long beard — for 
the public or law enforcement personnel to be concerned about his presence on a train. In 
other words, he did nothing to arouse suspicion, aside from looking the way he did and be 
in public space. 

C. Violence 

A database created on 9/11 by the Sikh civil rights organization, the Sikh 
Coalition, contains twenty-two reported cases of bias incidents against Sikhs on that day 
alone. 115 In the first week following 9/11, 645 bias crimes were directed at those 
perceived to be Middle Eastern. 11 In the first eight weeks after 9/11, over a thousand 
bias incidents were reported, including nearly nineteen murders, assaults, harassment, and 

117 

acts of vandalism. 

One of those murders realized the Sikh- American community's worst fears. On 
September 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a turbaned Sikh who owned a gas station in 
Mesa, Arizona, went to Costco to purchase an American flag and donated $75 to a fund 

118 

established for the families of victims of the 9/11 attacks. Upon returning to his gas 
station, Sodhi began attending to his landscaping outside of the gas station when Frank 
Roque drove by and fired five shots. 119 Sodhi died at the scene. 120 With his death, Sodhi 

121 

became "the first murder victim of the 9/1 1 -related hate crime backlash in America." 



1 See discussion of the Sikh articles of faith, supra Part I. 
11 See Jaideep Singh, supra note 1 1 1, at 23-26. 

115 Sikh Coalition Database, supra note 100. 

116 South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, American Backlash: 
Terrorists Bring War Home in More Ways than One, Nov. 2002, available at 
http://www.91 ldigitalarchive.org/documents/BiasReport.pdf [hereinafter American 
Backlash]. 

117 See Ahmad, supra note 8, at 1261-1262. 

1 1 o 

See Am. Civil Liberties Union of N. Cal., Caught in the Backlash: Sukhpal 
and Balbir Singh Sodhi, San Francisco & Meza, AZ, available at 
http ://w w w . aclunc .org/9 1 1 /backlash/sodhi .html . 

119 See Nick Martin, Sikhs still living in shadow of Sept. 11, East Valley Tribune, Sept. 
16, 2006, available at http://www.eastvallevtribune.com/story/48149 ; Arizona 
Department of Corrections, Inmate Profile: Frank Roque, available at 
http://www.azcorrections.gov/DeathRow/ProfilesBase.asp?inmate=RoqueF . 

23 



After shooting Sodhi, Roque visited a nearby sports bar where he announced, 

122 

"They're investigating the murder of a turban-head down the street." On the day 
charges were filed against Roque, Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley noted, "Sodhi 
was apparently killed for no other reason than because he was dark-skinned, bearded, and 

123 

wore a turban." At trial, Roque' s co-worker at Boeing testified that Roque said he 

124 

wanted to shoot some "ragheads." 

Roque was later convicted of the racially motivated murder of Sodhi, and was 
sentenced to death, though the Arizona Supreme Court commuted the death sentence on 
August 14, 2006, citing Roque' s "mental illness and low IQ [as] mitigating factors [that] 

1 25 

should have resulted in the lesser sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole." 

One of the most brutal attacks on a turbaned Sikh occurred almost three years 
after 9/11. On July 11, 2004, in Queens, New York, several men began taunting Rajinder 
Singh Khalsa. The perpetrators made several remarks in reference to Khalsa's turban. 
One said, "Look, somebody stole my curtains. . . . Why did you steal my sheets from my 
house?" 126 Another joined in, "Give me my curtain." 127 Khalsa testified that he asked in 

128 

response, "What do you mean, 'Give me my curtain?'" One of the men replied, "You 



120 

CNN.com, Man questioned in shooting death of Sikh, CNN Sept. 16, 2001, available 
at http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/16/gen.mesa.shooting/ . 

121 

Fed. Bureau of Investigations, Protecting Your Civil Rights: Spotlight on Hate Crimes 
Oct. 30, 2003, available at 

http://www.fbi.gov/page2/oct03/103003protectrights.htm . 

122 

Southern Poverty Law Center, The Forgotten: Balbir Singh Sodhi, available at 
http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp ?pid=251 . 

123 

CNN.com, Trial Begins for Man Charged with Killing Sikh Immigrant, CNN Aug. 18, 
2003, available at 

http ://w ww .cnn.com/2003/LAW/08/ 1 8/attacks . sikhshooting . ap/index.html . 

124 State of Ariz. v. Roque, CR-03-0355-AP (Ariz. 2006) (Summary of Oral Arg.). 

1 rye 

Michael Kiefer & Jim Walsh, 9/11 -tied slayer won't be executed, The Ariz. 
Republic, Aug. 15, 2006, available at 

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/08 1 5roque08 1 5.html . 

126 Herbert Lowe, 5 tried in Sikh 's beating: Prosecutors call assault an unprovoked hate 
crime but defense attorneys say religious leader escalated fight, Newsday, Nov. 1, 2005, 
at A 14 [hereinafter Lowe article]. 

Herbert Lowe, Sikh testifies in case, Newsday, Nov. 2, 2005, at A29. 

128 Id. 



24 



still here?" "Go to your home. Go to your country." A Sikh man with Khalsa 

i 

responded, "this is my country. This is my home, too." 

After this exchange, the group of five men then began assaulting Khalsa. 
According to the Queens District Attorney's office: 

[They] repeatedly punched the victim Khalsa in the face, knocking him to 
the ground where they kicked him until he lost consciousness. Khalsa was 
later treated at a hospital for multiple contusions, abrasions, swelling and 
substantial pain to his eye and face. A CAT scan revealed that Khalsa had 
sustained multiple fractures to the left orbital bone, as well as complex, 
obstructive fractures of the nose which required facial reconstruction 

130 

surgery to enable him to breathe. 
After the perpetrators finished beating Khalsa, "they took off his turban and threw it 

131 

away," adding religious insult to significant physical injury. Assistant District 
Attorney Elizabeth Parke noted that the assault on Khalsa "was a truly vicious, despicable 
act of hate." 132 

Following a five-week trial, the five men were convicted: two were found guilty 
of second-degree assault, two were found guilty of second-degree aggravated harassment 
as a hate crime, and the fifth defendant was found guilty of harassment in the second- 

133 

degree. ~ The men received sentences ranging from five days in jail to two years that 
included community service for three of them. 134 

The Khalsa case is notable because of the egregious nature of the clear animus 
and degree of brutality involved. It is also important because it is one of the exceptional 
cases in which the perpetrators verbalized their hate and thus provided authorities with 
colorable evidence of a hate crime. Hate crimes statutes generally are designed to punish 
those who attack or threaten individuals on the basis of an immutable characteristic, such 
as one's race or national origin. The federal hate crime statute "prohibits willful injury, 
intimidation, or interference or attempt to do so, by force or threat of force of any person 



129 Id. 

130 

Press Release, Queens County District Attorney's Office, D.A. Brown: Five 
Sentenced to Incarceration in Bias-Related Attack on Sikh Man in Richmond Hill, Dec. 
22, 2005 [hereinafter D.A. Press Release]. 

131 Kenji Yoshino, Uncovering Muslim Identity, Toward Freedom, Nov. 23, 2005, 
available at http://www.towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/674/54/ [hereinafter 
Yoshino article]. 

132 Lowe article, supra note 126. 

1 33 

* D.A. Press Release, supra note 130. 
134 Id. 



25 



1 35 

because of race, color, religion, or national origin[.]" "Sikhs are protected by hate 
crime statutes, even if the perpetrator believes the Sikh to be a Muslim terrorist." 136 But, 
a substantial difficulty in prosecuting hate crimes is obtaining evidence of hate. Thus, 
differentiating between a simple assault on an individual who happens to be Sikh and an 
assault on a turbaned Sikh where the perpetrator selected the Sikh because of his actual or 
perceived national origin is often difficult. Khalsa represents a rare instance in which the 
hate was revealed in the course of the attack. 

Hate crimes statutes have become especially relevant in a post-9/11 America. 
Despite their value in today's America, legal commentators have claimed that federal 

137 138 

hate crimes statues are "inadequate," " "completely unworkable," and have "failed in 
[their] deterrent aspect." 139 Accordingly, to the extent that federal hate crimes statues are 
ineffective due to the evidentiary problem, its limited applicability, and other issues, a 
compelling case can be made that hate crimes statutes are not effective and that stronger 
hate crime enactments are needed. 

Today, six years on from the 9/11 attacks, the violence continues, lending 
credence to the suggestion that hate crimes laws are presently insufficient to deter hate 
crimes. Standing outside his garage with his granddaughter, Iqbal Singh, a turbaned Sikh, 
was stabbed in the neck with a steak knife on July 29, 2006. He had been waiting to go 
to the temple near his home in Santa Clara, California. 140 According to the local 
prosecutor, Jay Boyarsky, the perpetrator "wanted to seek revenge for Sept. 1 1 and attack 
a member of the Taliban." 1 1 



133 18 U.S.C. § 245 (1996). 

136 Stromer, supra note 1 1, at 755. 

137 Frederick M. Lawrence, Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law 
157 (1999). 

138 Jason A. Abel, Americans Under Attack: The Need for Federal Hate Crime 
Legislation in Light of Post-September 11 Attacks on Arab Americans and Muslims, 12 
Asian L.J. 41, 45 (2005). 

139 

Stromer, supra note 1 1, at 757. 

140 John Cote, Hate crime alleged in stabbing of Sikh Santa Clara suspect could face life 
term if he is convicted, San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 2, 2006, available at 
http://www.sfRate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi7f =/c/a/2006/08/02/BAGBUK9HTOl.DTL . 



26 



D. Denial of Entry into Public Places 

In addition to the violent backlash against Sikhs, the targeting of the turban after 
9/11 has also led to Sikhs being denied entry into various public buildings and places of 
public accommodation, such as courthouses, 142 postsecondary institutions, 143 and 
political events. 144 For example, on September 23, 2001, Kabeer Singh was told to 
remove his turban or leave the Hard Times Cafe and Santa Fe Cue Club in Springfield, 
Virginia — despite the fact that prior to September 11, 2001, Sikh patrons, including 
Singh, had been permitted to wear turbans at this establishment. 

The DOJ conducted an investigation and concluded that F & K Management, Inc. 
[hereinafter F & K], the owner and operator of the establishment, "had engaged in a 
pattern or practice of discriminating against Sikhs, Muslims, Indian-Americans and other 
Asian Americans who wear certain kinds of head coverings, such as turbans, for religious 
or ethnic cultural reasons." 145 The DOJ found F & K in violation of Title II of the Civil 
Rights Act [hereinafter Title II], which provides that, "All persons shall be entitled to the 
full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and 
accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . . without discrimination on the 
ground of race, color, religion, or national origin." 146 The DOJ entered into a settlement 
agreement with F & K, which specified that the establishment was required, in part, to 
adopt a non-discriminatory dress code and apologize to Singh, his family, and to other 
Sikhs. 147 

This appears to be a relatively "easy" case as the same individual who went to this 
venue was only denied entry after the terrorist attacks. The settlement agreement could 
serve as a benchmark regarding the seriousness with which such discrimination in places 
of public accommodation is viewed. However, cases involving turbaned Sikhs being 



See, e.g., Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Georgia Court 
Apologizes for Denying Sikh American Man Entrance to Court, available at 
http://www.saldef.org/content.aspx?a=1391 . 

143 See, e.g., Sonja Sharp, Students Rail Scrutiny of Sikh, The Daily Californian, Sept. 
24, 2004, available at http://www.dailycal.org/article.php?id=16228 . 

144 See, e.g., Ralph Ranalli, Sikh student detained by Secret Service, BOSTON Globe, July 
30, 2004, available at 

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2004/07/30/sikh student detained by secret 
_service/ . 

145 DOJ Settlement Agreement, United States and F & K Management, Inc., d/b/a Hard 
Times Cafe and Santa Fe Cue Club, Feb. 28, 2003, available at 

http : //www . u sdoj . go v/crt/legalinf o/discrimupdate . htm . 

146 42 U.S.C. § 2000a (2007). 



27 



denied entry to places of public accommodation are not always this straightforward. On 
January 25, 2007, a turbaned Sikh, Sanjum Paul Singh Samagh, was not permitted to 
enter the Pierce Street Annex bar in Costa Mesa, California, on account of the bar's "no- 

1 AO 

hats" policy, though a Sikh turban, as noted in Part I, is not merely a form of headgear. 
A Sikh legal defense group considers the bar's actions to be "blatantly discriminatory," 
though UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, a leading constitutional scholar, did not 
think a federal case was a slam dunk for Samagh. 149 

Where the discriminatory application of a neutral "no-hats" policy is this more 
evident, as with the F & K case, the ability of plaintiffs and civil rights groups to achieve 
a favorable result, and the likelihood that the government will intervene, is surely greater. 
Indeed, the F & K case involved the same individual going to the same establishment 
both before and after 9/11. It is unlikely that other cases will be as clear-cut. Thus 
turbaned Sikhs like Samagh will have a greater burden to prove that their rights were 
violated, even though the F & K and Samagh cases both featured Sikhs being denied 
access to places of public accommodation after 9/11 on the basis of their turbans. 

The scope of Title IPs protections, however strong, are in any case limited to 
places that fall within the definition of a "public accommodation," and thus do not 
include areas such as airports or courtrooms where Sikhs are being asked to remove their 
turbans to enter beyond a certain point. 1 



E. Employment Discrimination 



Employment discrimination against Sikhs became especially problematic in the 
immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks. 151 Major companies, such as Disney and Subway, 



See Lisa Petrillo, Sikh wants apology from bar owner, Union-Tribune, Feb. 9, 2007, 
available at 

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/northcounty/20070209-9999-lmi9turban.html . 

149 Jeff Overley, Wo hats' rule protested, Orange County Register, Feb. 8, 2007, 
available at http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article 1568186.php . 

150 For example, in 2003, a judge informed Kuldip Singh, a defendant in a criminal 
matter, that he would have to remove his turban to appear for trial before a jury. The Sikh 
Coalition, The Sikh Coalition, "Incidents: Ref# 367: Turban Not Allowed in Court, Nov. 
17, 2003, available at 

http : //www, sikhcoalition . org/hatecrime . asp ?mainaction= vie wreport&reportid=3 67 . 

1 1 See Charu A. Chandrasekhar," Flying While Brown: Federal Civil Rights Remedies to 
Post-9/11 Airline Racial Profiling of South Asians," 10 Asian L.J. 215, 252 n.5 (2003) 
(listing several sources that documented incidents of harassment and employment 
discrimination against Sikhs and Muslims post-9/11). 



28 



refused to employ Sikhs or harassed Sikh employees, apparently because turbaned Sikhs 

152 

did not conform to their conceptions of what a presentable employee looks like. 

The post-9/11 environment has led to increased attention on the rights of Sikhs in 

153 

government jobs too. Although Sikhs are members of police forces in other nations, 
Sikhs with turbans have faced difficulty in police departments in the United States after 
9/11. Surprisingly, the most prominent examples of employment discrimination affecting 
the Sikh community, in the police or otherwise, are alleged to have occurred in one of the 
country's most diverse corners: New York City. 

On his first day of work, September 21, 2001, Jasjit Singh Jaggi, was told by his 
employer, the New York City Police Department (NYPD), that he could not wear a 
turban at work. 154 Jaggi claimed to have offered a compromise to his employer: to wear 
a white turban with the NYPD logo affixed to it, however the compromise was 
rejected. 155 Faced with the option of resigning or being terminated, Jaggi resigned. 156 
He subsequently filed a complaint against the NYPD with the New York City Human 

157 

Rights Commission. An administrative law judge ruled in favor of Jaggi, concluding 
that the petitioner sufficiently established that he was discriminated against in violation of 
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which generally requires employers 
to accommodate the reasonable religious needs of employees, unless the accommodation 

158 

would present an undue hardship, and recommending that Jaggi be reinstated and 



152 

See Hair Growth News, Disney lifts rule on shaving, available at 
http://www .hairgrowthnews.com/ar/arO 1 7 . shtml (noting that Disney permits employees 
to grow mustaches, but must shave other facial hair, though "[f]or Sikhs, it is 
unacceptable to cut any hair.); CBC, Sikh files human rights complaint over company's 
refusal to allow turban, Dec. 11, 2003, available at 

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story /2003/1 2/1 1/subway sikh03 121 1 .html ("A Sikh man who 
owns four Subway sandwich shops says he was told he couldn't wear his turban in his 
own stores."). 

153 

See, e.g., CBC, Sikh Mounties permitted to wear turbans, Mar. 15, 1990, available at 
http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-l-73-614-3302- 

11/that was then/politics economy/sikh mounties turban (recounting the acceptance of 
a turbaned Sikh into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police). 

154 Jaggi v. NY. City Police Dep't., CHR Compl. No. M-E-C-02-1012382-E, (NY. City 
Comm'n on Human Rts. Apr. 28, 2004). 

155 Id. 

156 Id. 

157 Id. 

158 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j) (2007). 



29 



permitted to wear a turban while on duty. A settlement was reached in Jaggi's case, 
leading to his reinstatement. 160 

Similarly, in early 2002, a turbaned Sikh New York City Police officer, Amric 
Singh Rathour, was terminated for refusing to remove his turban only a few weeks after 
he had completed training and been inducted into the NYPD. 161 Despite widespread 
news coverage and several petitions to NYPD, the City ignored his case. 162 As a result, 
he filed suit under Title VII against the New York City Police Commissioner and the 
NYPD to regain his employment. 163 The parties reached a settlement that paralleled the 
Jaggi settlement, and Rathour was reinstated. 164 

Sat Hari Singh 165 , a turbaned Sikh train operator with the New York Metropolitan 
Transit Authority (MTA), was honored for driving his train in reverse on 9/11, away from 
the towers and towards safety. 166 Singh had worked for the MTA for over twenty 
years. 167 Nevertheless, after the attacks, Singh was informed by the MTA that he would 
have to either remove his turban or wear an MTA logo on his turban if he wished to work 
around passengers, otherwise he would be forced to work in the rail-yard. 168 Rather than 
accept a transfer to this inferior position or be terminated for failing to comply with his 



159 Id. 

160 James Barron, Two Sikhs Win Back Jobs Lost by Wearing Turbans, NY. Times, July 
29, 2004, available at 

http://querv.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D07E4D6133DF93AA15754C0A9629 
C8B63 . 

161 The Sikh Coalition, Sikh Coalition Challenges NYPD on Rule Disallowing Turbans, 
available at http://www.sikhcoalition.org/amricsinghl.asp . 

162 Id. 

163 Id. 

164 Id. 

165 Singh, an American convert to Sikhism, is also known as Kevin Harrington. See 
Gurpreet Kaur, Sikh Americans' Political Roles after September 11, 2001, Mar. 11, 2005, 
http://www.pluralism.org/research/profiles/display .php?profile=73944. 

166 The Sikh Coalition, Five More Sikhs to Resist MTA Turban Branding Policy, Jul. 18, 
2005, available at 

http://www.sikhcoalition.org/advisories/mta_press.htm . 

167 The Sikh Coalition, Petition to MTA New York City Transit, Aug. 16, 2004, 
http://www.sikhcoalition.org/mta sikh petition.asp . 

168 Harrington v. NY. City Trans. Auth., et al., No. 05-CV-3341 (E.D.N.Y. 2005) (Am. 
Compl.). 



30 



employer's directives, Singh eventually and reluctantly agreed to wear a logo on his 
turban. 169 

The Sikh Coalition has filed suit on behalf of Singh. 170 The DOJ has also filed 
suit on behalf of Singh. The case is still pending as of February 2008. 

If the Jaggi and Rathour cases were precedential, should have a strong case 
against the MTA. It should be noted, however, that the Jaggi and Rathour resolutions 
were ultimately reached via settlement, not via judicial determination. 

What of the courts? Some legal scholars, including Circuit Judge Michael W. 
McConnell, have claimed that the courts have eviscerated religious rights in the 

171 

workplace, a situation that would ostensibly imperil turbaned Sikhs from bringing 
successful Title VII claims. For example, the Supreme Court has held that employers 
need not bear more than a de minimis cost to accommodate religious employees, 17 and 
that employers are not required to accept a particular accommodation suggested by the 

173 

employee. Courts have also allowed employers to defend themselves against undue 

hardship by claiming that the accommodation would negatively affect business 

operations, 174 impose on co-worker rights, 175 or endanger public health or safety. 176 



169 Id. 

170 See id. 

171 

See Michael W. McConnell, Symposium, Religion in the Workplace: Proceedings of 
the 2000 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Law 
and Religion, 4 Employee Rts. & Emp. Pol' y J. 87, 98 (2000) (noting that "the Supreme 
Court's decisions in Hardison and Philbrook have made mincemeat of the congressional 
intention in Title VII."); see also Thomas D. Brierton, '"Reasonable Accommodation'" 
Under Title VII: Is it Reasonable to the Religious Employee, 42 Cath. Law. 165, 182- 
186 (2002) (describing the ways in which the "[t]he courts have weakened reasonable 
accommodation rights in the workplace[.]") [hereinafter Reasonable Accommodation]. 

172 See TWA v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63, 84 (1977) ("To require TWA to bear more than a 
de minimis cost in order to give Hardison Saturdays off is an undue hardship."). 

173 See Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 68 (1986) ("We find no basis in 
either the statute or its legislative history for requiring an employer to choose any 
particular reasonable accommodation. By its very terms the statute directs that any 
reasonable accommodation by the employer is sufficient to meet its accommodation 
obligation."). 

174 See EEOC v. Sambo's of Ga. Inc., 530 F. Supp. 86, 91 (N.D.Ga. 1981) (disagreeing 
that "customer preference is an insufficient justification or defense as a matter of law[.]"). 

175 See Weber v. Roadway Express Inc., 199 F.3d 270, 274 (5th Cir. 2000) (finding that 
an accommodation is "more than a de minimis expense because [it] unduly burdens his 
co-workers."). 



31 



Generally, as explained in Part I, it would seem that the protection Title VII affords to 
turbaned Sikhs is quite limited. 

As a historical matter, the courts have not been kind to Sikh claims of 
employment discrimination. Kalsi v. New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), 177 a 
1998 case, is one of the more discouraging cases for Sikhs with turbans in the public 
safety context. The case was brought by Charan Singh Kalsi, a Sikh car inspector trained 
by the NYCTA to work on subway cars, which involved working in pits under the cars, 
alongside the cars, and in other areas where there was a threat to his head. Kalsi was told 
to remove his turban and don a hard hat during the training session and, when he refused, 
was eventually fired. Kalsi brought claims against NYCTA alleging violations of the 
First Amendment, Title VII, and the New York State Constitution. 178 

The defendants moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted. 
With regards to the Title VII claim, the Court held that Kalsi had failed to prove a prima 
facie case of discrimination or disparate impact: although he was a member of a protected 
group, he failed to show that his discharge occurred under "circumstances giving rise to 
an inference of discrimination." 179 Also, although Kalsi had a prima facie case for his 
reasonable accommodation claim, he could not be accommodated without undue 
hardship to the employer (and the employer's safety standards). 

180 

An oft-cited employment discrimination case, EEOC v. Sambo 's of Georgia, 
also produced a disappointing result for a turbaned Sikh. In this case, a Sikh man applied 
for a managerial position with the Sambo's chain of restaurants in Atlanta, and his 
application was rejected from the very outset on the basis that if he were to obtain the 
position, he would not be able to shave his beard and moustache in compliance with 
Sambo's grooming policy. The company claimed that the wearing of a beard, moustache, 
and headgear was not permitted because they do not "comply with the public image that 
Sambo's has built up over the years", 181 and that because Sambo's was a family 
restaurant, their customers would react adversely to a bearded and turbaned manager. The 
court held, in part, that even if the refusal of an employer to hire a non-clean shaven man 
was discriminatory, being clean-shaven is a bona fide occupational qualification for a 
restaurant that relies on the family trade, and therefore constitutes a Title VII exception: 



1/(5 See Bhatia v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 734 F.2d 1382, 1384 (9th Cir. 1984). 

177 62 F. Supp. 2d 745 (E.D.N.Y. 1998). 

Id. at 748. Kalsi also brought a claim under the RFRA, but this was dismissed as a 
result of Boerne, which declared RFRA unconstitutional as applied to state actions. Id. at 
748-49. 

179 Id. at 753. 

180 EEOC v. Sambo's, 530 F. Supp. at 89. 

181 Id. at 89-90. 



32 



The requirement that Sambo's restaurant managers be clean-shaven is 
tailored to actual business needs, has a manifest and demonstrable relation 
to job performance, and is necessary to the safe and efficient operation of 
Sambo's Restaurants. 182 

The Sambo's case is significant because it considered important evidence 
"prov[ing] that a significant segment of the consuming public would not accept restaurant 

1 83 

employees with beards." The appearance-employment discrimination cases are 
particularly salient after 9/11. In 2003, the Subway fast-food chain, for example, began 
to "crack down" on Sikh men (many of whom are store owners) appearing in front of 
customers with their turbans on, saying that the turban does not "present a professional 

1 84 

image," and requiring employees to wear black hats or visors instead. 

Subsequent to Sambo's, however, several courts declared that preferences for 
personal appearance when an employee is dealing with the public are insufficient to 

1 85 

defend a Title VII claim. In addition, in a pamphlet published after 9/11, the EEOC 
clarified that employment decisions cannot be based on customers being uncomfortable 
with religious attire. In an example, in the pamphlet the EEOC noted: 

Narinder, a South Asian man who wears a Sikh turban, applies for a 
position as a cashier at XYZ Discount Goods. XYZ fears Narinder' s 
religious attire will make customers uncomfortable. What should XYZ do? 



Brierton, Reasonable Accommodation, supra note 171. 

1 84 

See Jill Mahoney, Sikh says Fast-Food Boss Banned 'Diaper' on Head, Globe and 
Mail, Dec. 11, 2003, available at 

http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.2003 1211 . wturban 1 2 1 1/BNStory/N 
ational/ . 

1 85 

See Bryan P. Cavanaugh, September 11 Backlash Employment Discrimination, 60 J. 
Mo. B. 186, 192 (2004) (citing Craft v. Metromedia, Inc., 766 F.2d 1205, 1214 (8th Cir. 
1985); Lam v. Univ. of Hawaii, 40 F.3d 1551, 1560 n.13 (9th Cir. 1994); Platner v. Cash 
& Thomas Contractors, Inc., 908 F.2d 902, 905 n.5 (11th Cir. 1990)). This commentator 
noted that, "a restaurant's customers' anxiety about the manager's Middle Eastern 
appearance cannot justify national origin discrimination, even with a clear link between 
the manager's Middle Eastern national origin and the loss of revenue. Although one may 
empathize with these employers, the law does not permit customers' bias to justify an 
employer's unlawful discrimination." Id. 



33 



XYZ should not deny Narinder the job due to notions of customer 
preferences about religious attire. That would be unlawful. It would be the 
same as refusing to hire Narinder because he is a Sikh. 186 

Accordingly, to the extent that Sambo's stands for the proposition that discomfort 
with, or loss of business associated with public discomfort with, the Sikh turban or 
general appearance, Sambo's may no longer be considered a sound statement on Title 
VII's protections. Moreover, employers such as Disney and Subway may want to 
reconsider their employment decisions as they relate to placing turbaned Sikhs in the 
public eye. On the other end of the spectrum, cases like Kalsi have firmly established 
that an employer may reliably defend a Title VII suit on the grounds that the 

1 87 

accommodation will present a health or safety concern. 

The Sat Hari Singh case against the MTA does not appear to be one implicating 
health or safety, as Singh was instructed to wear a MTA logo on his turban in the course 
of his saga: a logo hardly serves as a protective tool but instead may have been a means 
to inform the riding public that Singh indeed was an MTA employee and dissipate any 
concerns that the turbaned man at the helm of a New York City train was dangerous. The 
turban itself does not seem to present an undue burden since the employer required that a 
logo be affixed to the turban, not that the turban be removed or replaced with a hat. In 
this respect, the MTA case resembles Sambo 's and the courts may be expected to resolve 
the case accordingly. 

Aside from the "customer comfort" issue, overall, Sikhs facing alleged 
discriminatory conduct in the workplace with regards to their turbans may face difficulty 

188 

in asserting their claims, particularly due to the de minimus undue burden test and in 
the cases where public health or safety are at issue. 1 Accordingly, these Sikhs may turn 



U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Questions and Answers About 
Employer Responsibilities Concerning the Employment of Muslims, Arabs, 
South Asians, and Sikhs (2005), available at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/backlash- 
employer.html . 

1 87 

See Huma T. Yunus, Note, Employment Law: Congress Giveth and the Supreme 
Court Taketh Away: Title VII's Prohibition of Religious Discrimination in the Workplace, 
57 Okla. L. Rev. 657, 672 (2004) ("Generally, cases that implicate public health or 
safety regulations have predictable outcomes. Courts have consistently held that any 
accommodation that requires employers to violate a state or business imposed health or 
safety procedure constitutes an undue hardship."). 

188 See Cloutier v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 390 F.3d 126 (1st Cir. 2004) (holding that 
requiring employer to permit an employee, a member of the Church of Body 
Modification, to wear numerous uncovered facial piercings would be an undue burden). 

189 

See Heather Payne & Norman Doe, Public Health and the Limits of Religious 
Freedom, 19 Emory Int'l L. Rev. 539, 551 (2005) (suggesting that "Sikhs may not 
enjoy legal protection to wear beards or turbans when an employer's rule is justified in 
the workplace on grounds of hygiene.") [hereinafter Payne & Doe]. 



34 



to extra-legal remedies, such as the assistance of Sikh action groups in encouraging 
employers to change their policies before an incident occurs or to settle in case one does 
arise. In other words, Title VII may be most effective for Sikhs where they are able to 
convince employers, without formal judicial proceedings, to accommodate the Sikh 
turban in the workplace. 190 The legal avenues available to Sikhs, though, may improve if 
a Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which would generally require employers to afford 
greater protections to religious employees, was finally passed by Congress. 191 Until then, 
negotiations and settlements may be a more productive route than private litigation for 
turbaned Sikhs. 



F. Profiling 

In 2004, Amnesty International reported that racial profiling of those appearing to 

192 

be Muslim was still prevalent. An obvious setting for discrimination against Sikhs 
with turbans after the hijacking of four airliners on 9/1 1 is airports. Accordingly, one of 
the most widespread problems for turbaned Sikhs after 9/11 has been airline racial 
profiling. 193 



See Remarks of Amardeep Singh, Legal Director, The Sikh Coalition, Meeting of the 
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Employment Discrimination in the 
Aftermath of September 11, Dec. 11, 2001 (encouraging the E.E.O.C. to take steps to 
"inform[] employers on how they can conform their corporate behavior to the 
requirements of the law when a situation that may possibly involve unlawful bias occurs. 
[Such measures] can serve as a way to proactively prevent discrimination before it 
occurs."). 

191 See Debbie N. Kaminer, Title VII's Failure to Provide Meaningful and Consistent 
Protection of Religious Employees: Proposals for an Amendment, 21 Berkeley J. Emp. 
& Lab. L. 575, 628-629 (2000) (arguing that the Act would broaden Title VII protections 
for religious employees). 

192 

Amnesty International USA, Racial Profiling: Threat and Humiliation: Racial 
Profiling, National Security, and Human Rights in the United States, available at 
http://www.amnestyusa.org/racial profiling/report . 

See Ellmann, supra note 18, at 360 n.43 ("Because Sikh men wear turbans as a matter 
of religious duty, and because they are Asians, they became the victims of many 
unpleasant and intrusive incidents in airports after September 11."). See generally Albert 
W. Alschuler, Racial Profiling and the Constitution, U. Chi. Legal F. 163, 163 (2002) 
(noting "a shift in sentiment" related to racial profiling after 9/11, with "81 percent of . . . 
respondents to a 1999 Gallup poll declaring] their opposition" to racial profiling and, 
shortly after 9/11, "58 percent of the respondents to a Gallup poll sa[ying] that airlines 
should screen passengers who appeared to be Arabs more intensely than other 
passengers."). 



35 



The concern of "airport profiling" — or "Flying while Brown" — at airports has 
generated significant anxiety in the Sikh community, as "airline profiling can be an 
utterly degrading and humiliating experience." 19 

The case of Hansdip Singh Bindra is particularly illustrative of the mistreatment 
that Sikhs with turbans have encountered during air travel. On November 26, 2002, 
Bindra was set to board Delta Airlines Flight # 6237 from Cincinnati, Ohio to Dayton, 
Ohio. As the passengers made their way to their respective seats, a stewardess told 
several passengers in the rear of the plane that there may be "trouble" and said of Bindra, 
who was seated towards the front of the plane, "see the man up front with the turban on, 
he's the one who is going to cause trouble." 196 The stewardess later told Bindra to keep a 
"low profile", "stay seated", and not to "cause any problems." The stewardess also 
attempted to communicate her views of Bindra and a passenger who came to the aid of 

1 no 

Bindra to the pilots as well as to other passengers. Bindra filed suit against Delta in 
the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. 199 Despite motions to dismiss filed 
by the Defendant-airline, the case was eventually settled by the parties. 200 



G. Conclusion 

In sum, while discrimination against Sikhs with turbans in America is nothing 
new, problems with Sikh turbans in various contexts have escalated rapidly post 
September 11, 2001. Because of the visual similarity between turbaned male Sikhs and 
al-Qaeda leadership and the Taliban, Sikhs appear to be singled out for hate crimes, racial 
profiling, and exclusion from public spaces as a result of their appearance. Given the 



See Chandrasekhar, supra note 151, at 224 (offering examples of racial profiling 
incidents in the airline context as well as remedies being pursued by South Asians against 
the airlines). 

195 Bindra v. Delta Airlines (D.N.J. Sept. 16, 2003) (Complaint). 

196 Id. 

197 Id. 

198 Id. 

199 Id. 

200 Paige Mudd, Richbrau shuts out turban wearer, Richmond Times Dispatch, Nov. 
25, 2006, available at 

http://www.saldef.org/content.aspx?a=1611&z=8&title=RICHMOND%20Brewpub%20s 
huts%20out%20turban%20wearer (four years later, Bindra was denied entry in a Virginia 
restaurant due to his refusal to remove his turban and comply with the establishment's 
no-headgear policy). 



36 



continuing nature of the backlash against Sikhs with turbans and the potential for residual 
hostility after 9/1 1 to increase with another terrorist attack, the need for legal protections 
for Sikhs with turbans has become exceedingly urgent, though the availability of legal 
remedies for Sikhs in various areas, including verbal harassment and most employment 
discrimination cases, appears limited. Sikh civil rights groups will need to continue to 
resolve cases through settlements, as the courts may not provide reliable protection where 
it is necessary. 

III. The Intellectual Challenge to the Sikh Turban: Assimilation 
by way of Eliminating Conspicuous Articles of Faith 

"[0]ur government will do everything we can. . . to treat every human life as 

201 

dear and to respect the values that made our country so different. " 

- President George W. Bush 

A. The Introduction of the Sikh Turban to the West 

While Sikh turbans are common in India and Pakistan, they are generally an 

202 

unusual sight for those outside of the South Asian subcontinent. Sikh immigration to 
other parts of the world, particularly Europe and North America, has forced Sikhs to 

203 

endure gawks, awkward questions, and resulting attitudes about them. ~ At the same 



Press Release, President Welcomes Sikh Leaders to White House 
Remarks by the President in Meeting with Sikh Community Leaders, Office of the Press 
Secretary, The White House, (Sept. 26, 2001), available at: 
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010926-l.html . 

202 

For example, of the approximately 23 million Sikhs in the world, over 19 million of 
them are in India. See Sikhism, Adherents.com, available at 

http : //www. adherents . com/Na/Na 603 . html (citing Census of India 2001, Data on 
Religion, Office of the Registrar General, India) for figures of Sikhs in India, and 
http ://w w w . adherents .com/Na/Na 606 .html (citing Russell Ash, The Top 10 of 
Everything 1999 77 (1998)) for figures of Sikhs worldwide. 

203 

See, e.g., Narinder Singh, Letter, The Awakened Giant: How Will It Strike Back?; The 
Faces of America, N.Y. Times, Sept. 24, 2001, available at 

http://querv.nvtimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B02E3DB143AF937A1575AC0A9679 
C8B63&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subiects/S/Sikhs%20(Sect) ("When I go to 
a mall or a grocery store, people stare at me[.]"); Ranbir Singh Sandhu, Sikhs In America: 
Stress And Survival, Sikh Spectrum, Sept. 2004, available at 

http://www.sikhspectrum.com/092002/survival.htm ("A turbaned Sikh is still an unusual 
figure and children will ask: 'Are you a genie?' People are asked by perhaps well- 
meaning strangers: 'Do you plan to go back to your own country?'"). 



37 



time, native residents of those lands are expected to make sense of these newcomers and 
to determine whether and to what extent their own customs, laws, and principles could 
absorb this new community and their turbans. 204 

The British Empire gave Sikhs their first opportunity to leave India in large 
numbers, transporting them to places as far flung as Kenya, Fiji, Australia, and Singapore 
as students, engineers, railway laborers, and entrepreneurs. Turbaned Sikhs also made 
up regiments in the British Indian Army, and were sent to destinations around the world, 
including Japan, France, and Trinidad. 206 The recent wave of Sikh immigration into the 
UK and other Western countries occurred primarily in the form of Sikhs leaving India in 
search of professional jobs abroad, or as a result of strong anti-Sikh sentiment in India 
during the mid-1980s. 207 Today there are around 400,000 Sikhs living in the UK alone. 208 



204 See, e.g., Elyse Amend, Teachers ask for accommodation guidelines, Nov. 27, 2007, 
available at http://www.westislandchronicle.com/article-162144-Teachers-ask-for- 
accommodation-guidelines.html (noting that members of a teachers' union "said teachers 
need guidelines to appropriately apply reasonable accommodation in their schools. 'We 
need to realize the situation teachers are in,' said union president Andree Aubut, adding 
the numerous cultures in the West Island and the close interaction with the anglophone 
population constantly change the face of what 'living together' means. 'There is a heavy 
responsibility there.' Aubut said teachers are often the 'first line' in integrating 
immigrants and that they need some sort of guidelines to make sure this is done 
appropriately."). 

205 See Jasmit Singh, Our Roots on the North American Soil, Sikh Spectrum, Sept. 2002, 
available at http ://w w w . sikhspectrum.com/ 1 02002/j asmit.htm . 

206 c • . 

See id. 

207 

Human Rights Watch, See India: Arms and Abuses in Indian Punjab and Kashmir, 
Human Rights Watch Sept. 1994 Vol. 6, No. 10. (noting that in 1984, "Hindu mobs 
slaughtered thousands of Sikhs in New Delhi and other cities throughout northern India. 
The complicity of local officials in the massacres and the failure of the authorities to 
prosecute the killers alienated many ordinary Sikhs who had not previously supported the 
militant cause."), available at http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/kashmir/1994/kashmir94- 
03.htm ; Daniel C. LaPenta, Fighting Terrorism Through the Immigration and Nationality 
Act: Dangers of Limiting the INA 's Breadth Under Cheema v. Ashcroft, 40 New Eng. L. 
Rev. 165, 170 (2005) ("According to the Punjab State Magistracy, the Indian government 
has murdered over 250,000 Sikhs since 1984. Moreover, there are reportedly over 50,000 
Sikhs being held in India 'as political prisoners . . . without charge or trial,' some since 
1984." (quoting 150 CONG. Rec. E1705 (daily ed. Oct. 1, 2004) (statement of Rep. 
Towns))). 

Human Rights Watch, World Atlas: United Kingdom, Human Rights Watch, 
available at http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm htm/untdkgdm.htm . 



38 



Given the relatively large proportion of Sikhs in their population, as well as the 
long history of Sikh interaction with the British through its Empire, British citizens can 
generally identify a Sikh, though the backlash against "homegrown terrorists" following 
the July 7, 2005 bombings in London nonetheless placed British Sikhs in peril. 20 The 
UK also created a number of accommodations that make it easier for Sikhs to maintain 
the basic tenets of their religious faith — and especially the turban — while still forging 
their British identity. 210 Perhaps the most significant protection for British Sikhs is their 
inclusion as a separate racial group, on the basis of their unique culture and identity, for 

211 

purposes of the Race Relations Act of 1976. 

Sikhs first arrived in Canada over a century ago, around 1903, as British colonial 
subjects seeking to benefit from the economic opportunities of the land. 12 Sikh 
immigrants to Canada were met with fierce racism from the very start. The anti-Asiatic 
riots and the Asian Expulsion League, formed in 1907 specifically to target the Sikh 

213 

community, serve as examples of this almost immediate hostility, which persisted 



See Mistaken identity, The Guardian (UK), Sept. 5, 2005 (quoting a Sikh community 
leader as saying "[t]he turban-wearing Sikh community is under siege" in Britain after 
the 7/7 attacks), available at http://www.guardian.co.Uk/g2/story/0,, 1562696,00.html ; see 
also BBC.com, Attacker pulls off Sikh 's turban, ("A Sikh man had his turban pulled off 
and was racially abused in a town in Northants[.]"), available at 
http://news.bbc.co.Uk/2/hi/uk news/england/northamptonshire/4157254.stm . 

210 See e.g. John deP. Wright, Wigs, 9 Green Bag 2d 395 (2006) ("ffln the latter part of 
the 1800s, when the first Sikh sought entry to the English Bar, the wearing of the wig by 
Sikhs was considered something that could be dispensed with."); Payne & Doe, supra 
note 189, at 550 ("In the United Kingdom, Sikhs are exempt from the requirement to 
wear a crash helmet in place of their turban."). 

211 

See Steven Vertovec, Islamophobia and Muslim Recognition in Britain Muslims in 
the West: From Soiourners to Citizens 25 (2002) (Yvonne Yazbek Haddad, ed.) 
("An important ruling by the House of Lords in 1983 (Mandla v. Dowell-Lee, following a 
head teacher's refusal to allow a Sikh boy to wear a turban in school) established that 
Sikhs- and, by extension, Jews- are considered an ethnic group and therefore are 
protected by the 1976 Race Relations Act."). 

212 Hugh Johnston, Sikhs Origin, Multicultural Canada, available at 
http://www.multiculturalcanada.ca/ecp/content/sikhs.html . 

213 See Tarik Ali Khan, Canada Sikhs, Himal South Asian, Dec. 12, 1999, available at 
http://www.himalmag.com/99Dec/sikhs.htm . ("The increasing number of Sikhs and other 
Asian migrants (Chinese and Japanese) created a violent backlash from the white settlers 
on the west coast. By 1907, the Asian Expulsion League in British Columbia had lobbied 
successfully to disenfranchise all people arriving from India. They were referred to 
simply as "Hindus" (although almost all of them were Sikhs), and in spite of their being 
British citizens and Canada itself being a British dominion, the government of British 
Columbia stripped them of the right to vote, purchase Crown timber, and work in certain 



39 



decades later. For example, Sikhs were prohibited from voting in British Columbia until 

214- 

1947. They were not permitted to move into certain neighborhoods because of 

215 

widespread fear of the "tide of turbans," which many felt needed to be pushed back. 
Accordingly, Sikhs were disliked and resented by the locals, and those who were willing 
to give them jobs often did so only in honor of their representation in the British army. 216 
Conditions changed in the aftermath of World War II, with increased Sikh 
emigration out of newly independent India. Canadian immigration policies opened up to 

217 

allow in more Indian citizens after this period. To complement the influx of 
immigrants, the government stressed a policy of "multiculturalism" and recognized the 

218 

diversity of its citizens. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also relaxed its uniform 

219 

requirements permitting Sikh officers to wear their turbans on the job. Prior to 9/11, 
Canadians and their government appeared increasingly willing to accommodate the Sikhs 

220 

that now live in their midst. For example, there have been Sikh members of 
parliament, including turbaned Sikhs Gurbax S. Malhi and Navdeep S. Bains, in recent 



professions. The same year, farther down the coast in Bellingham, Washington, an "anti- 
Hindu" riot erupted and angry white sawmill workers fearful for their jobs chased 300 
Sikhs out of town."). 

214 See id. ("The Sikhs eventually won the right to vote in 1947 and the slow integration 
into the mainstream continued."). 

215 Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian 
Americans 294(1989). 

216 Bhagat Singh, Canadian Sikhs: Through a Century 181 (2001). 

217 Narindar Singh, Canadian Sikhs: History, Religion, and Culture of Sikhs in 
North America 73-74 (1994). 

218 

See generally Senator Vivienne Poy, Multiculturalism, available at 
http://www.sen.parl.gc.ca/vpoy/english/Special Interests/multiculturalism.htm . ("In 1971 
, Canada became the first country in the world to adopt a multiculturalism policy. In 
1986 the government passed the Employment Equity Act and in 1988 it passed the 
Canadian Multiculturalism Act. These documents affirm Canada's commitment to 
recognize and respect ethnic and racial diversity."). 

219 See Pauline Cote & T. Jeremy Gunn, The Permissible Scope of Legal Limitations on 
the Freedom of Religion or Belief in Canada, 19 Emory Int'l L. Rev. 685, 735 (2005) 
("In . . . Grant v. Canada (Attorney General), the federal court upheld a RCMP 
regulation allowing Sikhs to wear their headcovering, the explicit purpose of which was 
to help recruit minorities."). 

220 

See, e.g., Multani c. Marguerite-Bourgeoys, supra note 21, at 82 (affirming the right 
of a Sikh student to wear a kirpan in a Quebec school). 



40 



years. Sikhs even have their own commemorative stamp, issued on the 300 birthday of 

221 

the year when Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa. 

Sikhs immigrated to the United States as early as 1899, settling mainly in the 

222 

West "to build railroads, farm, or work in mills and foundries." Sikh agricultural skills 
combined with the similarities of the fertile land of California with that of Punjab made 

223 

the Western region of America a natural home for many Sikhs. Although there has 
been a vibrant Sikh community in Central California since the late 19 th century, most of 
the Sikhs currently living around the country arrived after the 1965 immigration laws 
nullified immigration quotas. 2 "After 1965 in the United States .... immigration laws 

225 

were revised to admit Indians in numbers equal to those for people of other countries." 
As a result of the change in laws, which favored professionals, Sikhs were among the 
approximately "hundred thousand engineers, physicians, scientists, professors, teachers, 
business people and their dependents [who] had entered the United States by 1975. " 226 

There are approximately 500,000 Sikhs in the United States today, one third of 
whom reside in California and New Mexico. Many of them wear turbans and keep long 

227 

beards as symbols of their faith." Despite the discrimination that Sikhs have faced in 
the United States, they have prospered in various aspects of American life, including 

228 

politics and business. 



29 1 

See SikhTimes.com (image of stamp) 
http://www.sikhtimes.com/300 years of khalsa stamp Canada 1999.jpg . 

222 

See Civil Rights Concerns in the Metropolitan Washington, D.C, Area in the 
Aftermath of the September 11, 2001, Tragedies, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 8 
(June 2003) [hereinafter Civil Rights Commission Report]. 

223 

Lea Terhune, Sikhs Rule in California's Central Valley, SPAN 2 (May /June 2005), 
available at http://usembassv.state.gov/posts/inl/wwwfspmavjune4.pdf . 

224 

See L. Scott Smith, From Promised land to Tower of Babel: Religious Pluralism and 
the Future of the Liberal Experiment in America, 45 Brandeis L.J. 527, 570 (2007); see 
also Stromer, supra note 11, at 739-40, 742-43. 

225 Jensen, supra note 90, at 280. 

226 Id. 

997 

SMART, Who are the Sikhs, Sikh Media Watch and Resource Task Force, available 
at http://www.sikhmediawatch.org/pubs/smartpubl.htm . 

228 Civil Rights Commission Report, supra note 222 at 8 (quoting Patwant Singh, The 
Sikhs 242 (1992)). See e.g., Stephanie M. Weinstein, A Needed Image Makeover: 
Interest Convergence and the United States ' War on Terror, 1 1 Roger Williams U. L. 
Rev. 403, 427 (2006) ("Religious minorities, such as Sikhs, are also experiencing 
economic gains. Akal Security, owned by the Sikh Dharma community, is one of 
America's fastest growing security companies."). 



41 



B. 



The Global Call for Assimilation after 9/11 



The war on terror has not only increased racial violence, harassment, and adverse 
employment actions against Sikhs with turbans; it has also led to a more abstract 
questioning of the proper degree to which visible immigrant minority groups should be 
part of mainstream Western society. Western societies have generally permitted 

230 

immigrant minority groups to maintain aspects of their identity and heritage. Canada, 
for example, is famous for advancing this more permissive approach to multiculturalism. 
Indeed, former Canadian Prime Minister Diefenbaker once said 

Canada was not a "melting pot" in which the individuality of each element 
is destroyed in order to produce a new and totally different element. It is 
rather a garden into which have been transplanted the hardiest and 
brightest of flowers from many lands, each retaining in its new 
environment the best of the qualities for which it was loved and prized in 
its native land. 231 

In a multicultural society, certain pockets of a city may have a large concentration 
of ethnic or religious immigrants. 232 The Little Italy's or Chinatowns that are embedded 



See Helen Elizabeth Hartnell, Belonging: Citizenship and Migration in the European 
Union and in Germany, 24 Berkeley J. Int'l L. 330, 339 (2006) ("Questions 
surrounding tolerance, multiculturalism, and the existence of 'parallel societies' have 
returned to the forefront of contemporary debates in Germany, particularly since the 
eruption of ethnic violence in the neighboring Netherlands in the summer of 2004 and in 
France in October 2005."). 

230 

See, e.g., Kenneth Las son, Religious Liberty in the Military: the First Amendment 
under "Friendly Fire", 9 J.L. & Religion 471, 471 (1992) ("most western cultures 
regard religious liberty as so fundamental that their military establishments routinely 
develop regulations to accommodate specific religious practices."); Gidon Sapir, Religion 
and State- A Fresh Theoretical Start, 75 Notre Dame L. Rev. 579, 583 (Dec. 1999) 
("The vast majority of Western nations accept the view that people should be granted 
freedom of religion."). 

231 See, e.g., Singh, supra note 113, at 208. 

232 

See Barry R. Chiswick & Paul W. Miller, Immigrant Residential and Mobility 
Patterns, (in Reed Ueda, A Companion to American Immigration, 309 (2006)) ("A 
common characteristic of immigrants in various destinations and in various time periods 
is that they tend to be geographically concentrated. Immigrants of a particular origin tend 
to live in areas where others from the same origin live, rather than disturbing themselves 
across the regions of the destination in the same proportion as the native-born population. 
The result of this tendency to settle among others from the country of origin is the 
formation of immigrant and ethnic concentrations or enclaves."); cf. Dessa Marie Dal 



42 



in some countries' major metropolitan areas — with restaurants and grocery stores 
offering traditional food and dual language business signs — are examples of societies 

233 

exhibiting permissive multiculturalism. ~ While minorities and immigrants may live in 
these concentrated areas, they nonetheless participate in society, by, for example, taking 

234 

part in political and civic activities or accepting jobs that some consider undesirable. 

On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps, is France. The French Republic was 
built on principles of separation of church and state and religious secularism, known in 

235 

French as laicite. Laicite was at the base of the French Revolution, and has been a 
basic tenet of French government since the 18 th Century. 236 The separation of Church and 
State was formally declared in 1905, and the idea holds an almost militant sway over the 
French to this day. 237 Secularism implies not just neutrality, but is itself a government 

238 

mandated social norm, leaving little space for identities that might clash with one's 
role as a politically French citizen. France has a long tradition of secularism. As one 
commentator noted, "[t]he will of the state to avoid knowledge of citizens' spirituality is 

93Q 

. . . a guarantee of liberty for the diverse religious confessions." As one writer 



Porto, La Piccola Italia Invisible: Washington D.C.'s Invisible Little Italy, 11 Geo. Pub. 
Pol'y Rev. 15, 16 (2006) (arguing that "an ethnic community can exist without having an 
ethnic enclave."). 

See Karen Christensen & David Levinson, Encyclopedia of Community: From 
the Village to the Virtual World, 864 (2003) ("Contemporary Italian American 
neighborhoods are varied but share elements of appearance and traditions such as food 
preferences that result in the Italian groceries, bakeries, and delicatessens."). 

934 

See Min Zhou, Chinatown: The Socioeconomic Potential of an Urban 
Enclave (1992) (using New York's Chinatown as an example of an immigrant enclave 
that is distinct, though still inextricably linked to broader American society). 

235 

See Christine Langenfeld, Germany: The Teacher Head Scarf Case, 3 Int'l J. Const. 
L. 86, 93 (Jan. 2005) (describing "the principle of laicism (principe de laicite )" as a 
"core principle of the French Republic, that guarantees the peaceful and equal 
coexistence of different religions in French society" and which "demands a strict 
separation between the secular state and religion[.]"). 

236 See id. (noting that laicite was "[m]entioned in France's 1789 Declaration of Human 
Rights[.]"). 

237 

See id. ("this principle was legally introduced in 1905 as the expression of a long 
tradition of separation of church and state and is now enshrined in Article 1 of the French 
Constitution.). 

Henri Astier, The Deep Roots of French Secularism, BBC News Online, December 
18, 2003 available at http://news.bbc.co.Uk/l/hi/world/europe/3325285.stm . 

93Q 

Jacques Robert, Religious Liberty and French Secularism, 2003 B. Y. U. L. Rev. 637, 
643 (2003). 



43 



describes it, "[t]he Republic has always recognized individuals, rather than groups: [a] 
French citizen owes allegiance to the nation, and has no officially sanctioned ethnic or 
religious identity" 240 — placing France squarely in the "melting pot" category of 
integrationists. 

With terrorist activity occurring in the United States and throughout Europe, 
immigrant communities are increasingly coming under attack — there is, as will be 
described below, an increased call for Western societies to shift to the French side of the 

241 

assimilation/integration continuum. More specifically, the pockets that are home to 
immigrants are no longer charming corners of America or Europe; they are considered by 
some to be isolated societies that serve as breeding grounds for "homegrown 

242 

terrorists." Integration, it is argued, prevents a non- Western identity from festering 

243 

and developing into extremism. 

There are calls, therefore, for members of these self- segregating immigrant 
communities to sufficiently blend into mainstream society — to adopt more of a Western 
identity and to consequently shed some of their cultural ties to their homeland and native 
beliefs. 244 There is a mounting emphasis on the outer, superficial characteristics of 
citizens as being symbols of loyalty to a particular political regime, as though appearance 
is almost a proxy for allegiance. In short, there is growing discomfort not only with 
concentrated areas of immigrants, but also with the clothing of immigrants. 246 



240 Id. 

241 

See notes 248-83 and accompanying text, infra. 

See, e.g., Robert Polner, A neighborhood in afishbowl: Little Pakistan has lost plenty 
of residents since 9/11, and many who stayed behind are struggling to adapt, Newsday, 
Aug. 2, 2005 (discussing the impact of post-9/11 scrutiny on Brooklyn's Little Pakistan). 

243 

See, Muslim Integration A Bar To Extremism, Forbes, Oct. 9, 2006, available at 
http://www.forbes.com/home/business/2006/10/06/muslim-integration-stops-extremism- 
biz-cx_1009oxford.html . 

244 See European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, Muslims in the 
European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia, (Dec. 18, 2006); see also, Brian 
Murphy, EU report: Muslims face 'Islamophobia', ASSOC. Press, Dec. 18, 2006 
("Muslims feel that acceptance by society is increasingly premised on 'assimilation' and 
the assumption that they should lose their Muslim identity[.]"). 

245 See Mark Rice-Oxley, Taking on the veil: West looks to assimilation: From Britain to 
Australia, unease grows over the separateness of many of the West's Muslim 
communities, Christian Sci. Monitor, Oct. 20, 2006 (noting that, in Australia, 
"multiculturalism is seen in an increasingly negative light. Prime Minister John Howard, 
[for example,] has spoken of moving away from 'zealous multiculturalism' toward a 
reassertion of Australia's national identity.") (emphasis added). 



246 



See notes 248-83 and accompanying text, infra. 



44 



Conspicuous articles of faith are manifestations of a "separate" people and are therefore 

247 

under additional scrutiny. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the debate regarding assimilation is most pronounced in 

248 

France. In February 2004, French lawmakers passed a law prohibiting public school 
students from wearing articles of faith, such as signs or clothes, "that exhibit 
conspicuously a religious affiliation." 249 The French aimed the law against those 
religious minorities who are most "visible" amongst them, i.e. those whose appearance 

250 

itself manifests an alternative "political" identity. The purpose of the ban was 
ostensibly to discourage the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and to promote 

25 1 

secularism. Although passed explicitly to prevent the wearing of headscarves by 



See Rice-Oxley, supra note 245. 

248 

See U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 
International Religious Freedom Report 2005: France, Nov. 8, 2005 ("The [French] 
Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this 
right in practice; however, some religious groups remain concerned about legislation 
passed in 2001 and 2004, which provided for the dissolution of groups under certain 
circumstances and banned the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by public school 
employees and students."), available at 
http://www.state.gOv/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51552.htm . 

249 Law No. 2004-228 of Mar. 15, 2004, Journal Officiel de la Republique Francaise 
[J.O.] [Official Gazette of France] 5190, Mar. 17, 2004. 

250 

Many of the French arguments for the law have been on the grounds that the presence 
of headscarves and yarmulkes in schools politicizes the school atmosphere and leads to 
political incidents between students. See Statement by M. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Prime 
Minister of France, Feb. 4, 2003, available at http ://w w w . ambafrance- 
us.org/news/statmnts/2004/raffarin_secularism_030204.asp (noting in a speech entitled, 
"Bill on the application of the principle of secularity (laicite) in state schools," that, "[i]t 
has to be recognized that certain religious signs, among them the Islamic veil, are now 
becoming more frequently seen in our schools. They are in fact taking on a political 
meaning and can no longer be considered simply personal signs of religious affiliation."); 
see also Stasi Commission Report, http:// www. Assemblee- 
nationale.fr/ 1 2/do s siers/laicite . asp ; The Sikh Coalition, Chirac Endorsement- English 
Translation, Dec. 17, 2003, http://www.sikhcoalition.org/frenchban chiracspeech.asp ; 
Caroline Wyatt, French Headscarf Ban Opens Rift, BBC, Feb. 11, 2004, 
http://newsvote.bbc.co.Uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3478895.st 
m. 

251 See William J. Kole, French Rue Religious Symbol Ban, ASSOC. PRESS, Feb. 15, 2004 
(describing the ban as "France's response to what many perceive as a rise in Muslim 
fundamentalism[.]"); Christopher D. Belelieu, The Headscarf as a Symbolic Enemy of the 
European Court of Human Rights' Democratic Jurisprudence: Viewing Islam Through a 



45 



young Muslim women, the ban also prohibits Jewish skullcaps, "large" Christian crosses, 

252 

and the Sikh turban in public schools. 

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, commenting on the law, noted, 
"Today, all the great religions in the history of France have adapted themselves to [the 
principle of secularism] .... For the most recently arrived. . . secularism is a chance, the 

OCT 

chance to be a religion of France." Secularism under this view implies not just 

254 

neutrality, but is itself the "state religion" of sorts. 

The ban on conspicuous articles of faith in public school upset minority groups 
whose religious identities were challenged. 255 They are now required to choose between 
observing their faith and obtaining an education. 256 For example, Sikh boys with turbans 



European Legal Prism in light of the Sahin Judgment, 12 Colum. J. Eur. L. 573 (2006) 
(commenting on the "simplication of the legal debate through a representation of the 
headscarf as a symbol of Islamic fundamentalism."); Stefanie Walterick, The Prohibition 
of Muslim Headscarves from French Public School and Controversies Surrounding the 
Hijab in the Western World, 20 Temp. Int'l & Comp. L.J. 251, 254 (2006) ("While the 
new law reflects France's particular tradition of laicite, the law can also be seen as a 
backlash against France's growing Muslim minority population."). 

959 

See Walterick, supra note 251, n. 251 ("Although the new law contains neutral 
language that prohibits all religious garb, including large Christian crosses, Jewish 
yarmulkes, and Sikh turbans, the law was enacted with the specific intent to eliminate the 
Muslim hijab, or headscarf, from French public school classrooms."). 

253 

Debate Begins in France on Religion in the Schools, N.Y. Times, Feb. 4, 2004, 
(French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, as quoted in Elaine Sciolino) available at 
http://querv.nvtimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE2DB153BF937A35751C0A9629 
C8B63&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subiects/C/Church-State%20Relations . 

254 Henri Astier, The Deep Roots of French Secularism, BBC News, Dec. 18, 2003, 
available at http ://ne w s.bbc.co.uk/1 /hi/world/europe/3 325285.stm . 

955 

For example, demonstrations were held in response to the ban. See, e.g., Delfin Vigil, 
Worldwide Protests over Ban on Religious Symbols: French Proposal Would Apply to all 
its Public Schools, Jan. 18, 2004. 

256 In the words of one 17-year-old Sikh student, "I'm 100 percent French, I speak 
French, I was born here." He continued, "[b]ut it's impossible for me to take off my 
turban. If they force me, I'll have to drop out, and never be able to do anything except a 
job that no one else wants." Elaine Sciolino, Bobigny Journal; French Sikhs Defend 
Their Turbans and Find Their Voice, N.Y. Times, Jan. 12, 2004, available at 
http://querv.nvtimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E05EFDE1530F931A25752C0A9629C 
8B63&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subiects/S/Sikhs%20(Sect) . 



46 



are uniformly forbidden to enroll in public schools. Accordingly, a number of students 
from these minority communities have been forced to find alternative forms of basic 

258 

education, such as private or religious schooling, or home-schooling. The accepted 
form of integration, for these individuals who rejected the ostensible call to shed religious 
attire, was one in which each culture adds to the identity of a nation by being able to 
express its own diverse characteristics, including, but not limited to, turbans. As 
prominent Sikh scholar I. J. Singh points out, "the only desirable integration for a small 
minority such as ours lies in a mosaic where our identity is sacrosanct." 260 

The Sikh perspective was completely overlooked in the lead up to the French 
legislation. 261 When initially faced with Sikh objections after the bill's passage, one 
Ministry of Education official replied, "What? There are Sikhs in France? I know nothing 
about the Sikh problem. Are there many Sikhs in France?" 262 This is despite the fact that 
approximately 5,000 to 7,000 Sikhs live in France, 263 far more than the 1,200 veiled 
Muslim schoolgirls in the country. 264 



Although the ban officially affects only primary and secondary education (elementary 
through high school), there have been reports that universities too are refusing to accept 
Sikh men with turbans. Karamvir Singh, 19 year old French-Sikh and French citizen, was 
rejected from 5 French universities in October in anticipation of the ban. He was told that 
they were willing to accept him, if he took off his turban. Press Release, United Sikhs, 
Right To Turban Petition, Jan. 3, 2004 available at http ://w w w . sikhpride .com/france .htm . 

258 

See, e.g., Emma Jane Kirby, Sikh school sidesteps French ban, BBC News, Sept. 15, 
2007. 

259 

See Robin Cook, France need not fear schoolgirls in headscaves, The Independent 
(U.K.), Dec. 19, 2003 (arguing that the British form of multiculturalism has "judged that 
we are more likely to reduce friction and to promote harmony if we respect religious and 
cultural diversity and tolerate rather than suppress its outward expressions. While France 
has acted to ban headscarves, we adapted our law to permit Sikhs to wear their turbans 
when others may be required to wear helmets. . . . Our lives are enriched by the 
consequent diversity of cultures, heritage and, most popularly, cuisine."). 

260 I. J. Singh, Sikhs and Sikhism: A View With a Bias 112 (The Centennial 
Foundation 1998) (1993). 

261 UK Sikhs join 'headscarf' protest, BBC News, Feb. 21, 2004, available at 
http://news.bbc.co.uk72/hi/uk news/3508677.stm . 

262 Sciolino, supra note 256. 

263 French Sikhs lambast school ban, BBC News, Sept. 7, 2004, available at 
http://news.bbc.co.Uk/2/hi/europe/3635768.stm . 

264 Elizabeth C. Jones, Muslim girls unveil their fears, BBC News, Mar. 28, 2005, 
available at http : //new s .bbc .co . uk/2/hi/programmes/thi s world/43 5 2 1 7 1 . stm . 



47 



Despite protests from Sikhs, France's highest administrative body, the Council of 
State, upheld the ban as it applied to Sikhs. 265 According to reports of the ruling, the 
Council of State concluded that the ban was "justified on the grounds of public security," 
an apparent allusion to the concern regarding the spread of religious fundamentalism, 
"and was not a restriction on freedom of faith." 266 The Council of State also ruled that a 
Sikh can wear his turban in drivers' license and passport photos, reasoning on procedural 
grounds, rather than reasoning respecting the rights of Sikhs with turbans. 267 
Specifically, the Council stated that the transport minister, not the local interior officials, 
could establish regulations regarding such conditions or restrictions. 

France's actions have set an example for advancing a largely integrationist agenda 
in Europe. Belgium imposed a similar ban in 2005, specifically disallowing Sikh turbans 
in public educational institutions. 2 9 The Netherlands is contemplating "a total ban on 
the wearing of burqas and other Muslim face veils in public, justifying the move on 

270 

security grounds." Moreover, Germany 

has increased its integration efforts regarding immigrants but grapples 
with sensitive issues such as headscarves. Amid heightened fears that 
wearing a veil is a symbol of fundamentalist Islam, the headscarf issue on 
another level also reflects sensitive topics such as the modern secular 
identities of European states, the compatibility of Islam with largely 
Christian Europe, the acceptance of immigrants, integration and religious 
rights. 271 



265 French Sikhs appeal on turban ban, BBC News, Mar. 7, 2006, available at 
http : //new s .bbc .co . uk/2/hi/europe/47 8 2420 . s tm . 

266 Id. 

267 See Rediff.com, France rules Sikh turbans legal, Rediff.COM, Dec. 5, 2005, available 
at http://in.rediff.com/news/2005/dec/05paris.htm . 

268 Id. 

269 The Tribune, Belgium bans turban in schools, The Tribune, Sept. 5, 2005, available 
at http ://wwww ■tribuneindia.com/2005/20050905/puni ab 1 .htm# 10 . 

270 

Alexandra Hudson, Dutch to ban wearing of Muslim burqa in public, Reuters, Nov. 
17, 2006 available at 

http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSL1720620620061 1 17 . 

27 1 

German State Bans Hijab-clad Teachers, JUDEOSCOPE, June 1, 2006 (noting that the 
hijab "has been the subject of growing debate in several parts of Europe for more than a 
decade. But it especially intensified following the Sept. 1 1 terrorist attacks in New York 
and Washington."). 



48 



Accordingly, now half of Germany's states prohibit Muslim schoolteachers from 

272 

wearing headscarves. In addition, a school in Berlin has not allowed "370 pupils. . . to 
speak in their native tongue" even though "[n]inety percent of the school's students have 
foreign-born parents . . . and each class features between eight and ten different 

273 

languages." The school's headmaster explained, "We have introduced this ban to 
enable our students to take part in German society through speaking and understanding 

274 " 4 l " 4 

the language properly[.]" 

The row over integration and articles of faith is perhaps most fervent in England, 
where former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw claimed that Muslim attire that covers 
women from head-to-toe, exposing only the eyes, hinders communication: 
"Communication requires that both sides see each other's face .... You not only hear 

275 

what people say, but you also see what they mean." Moreover, he stated that the 
Muslim veil "separates people," suggesting that its use contributes to the erosion of 
British society. 27 He added: 

Simply breathing the same air as other members of society isn't 
integration. Britishness is thus an identity available to Anglicans, 
Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and those of other religions and 
none, and a central element of that identity is the principle that everyone 
has the freedom to practice their faith not as a matter of tolerance but of 



To wear a headscarf, therefore, is to refuse to adopt British identity, a decision 
Straw does not find acceptable. Following Foreign Secretary Straw's foray into the 
subject, Prime Minister Tony Blair affirmed Straw's view that the veil is a "mark of 

278 

separation" that makes "people from outside the community feel uncomfortable." 



272 Id. 

273 

Stefan Nicola, German school bans foreign languages, United Press Int'l., Jan. 26, 
2006, available at http ://w w w . upi.com/archive/view .php?archive= 1 &StoryID=20060 126 
-011259-7812r . 

274 Id. 

275 Fareena Alam, Beyond the Veil, Newsweek, Nov. 27, 2006, available at 
http : //www, msnbc . msn . com/id/ 1578943 7/site/ne w s week/ (noting also that "British 
Muslims immediately wondered how Straw's former cabinet colleague, ex-Home 
Secretary David Blunkett- blind since birth- ever did his job."). 

276 Muslims must feel British — Straw, BBC News, Nov. 2, 2006, available at 
http://news.bbc.co.Uk/2/hi/uk news/politics/61 10798 .stm . 

277 Id. 

278 Id. 



49 



Moreover, on March 22, 2006, the House of Lords ruled that a Muslim girl's "right to 
manifest her belief in practice or observance" was not infringed when her high school 
excluded her for wearing a jilbab, or a long shapeless black gown, instead of the school's 
uniform." The lords reasoned, in part, that "there were three schools in the area at which 
the wearing of the jilbab was permitted .... There is, however, no evidence to show that 

2 80 

there was any real difficulty in her attending one or other of these schools[.]" 

To be sure, not all Western nations have responded to the terrorist activity and 
subsequent concern for the spread of fundamentalist Islam by clamping down on the 
wearing of articles of faith. For example, in 2005, the Australian government rejected a 

28 1 

proposal "to ban Muslim girls from wearing traditional headscarves in state schools." 
In discussing why he disliked the proposal, the Prime Minister stated, "If you ban a 

282 

headscarf you might, for consistency's sake, have to ban a . . . turban," which the 
Prime Minister apparently was not willing to do. Moreover, an official in opposition to 
the proposal said, "We're at war with terror, not young girls wearing scarves or (people 

283 

wearing) crucifixes or skull caps." 

Canada traditionally has been lenient towards minority groups. Former Prime 
Minister Pierre Trudeau, for example, instituted a policy of multiculturalism that sought 
to assist members of all cultural groups to overcome cultural barriers, promote encounters 

284 

between different groups, and support all of Canada's cultures. Canada's commitment 
to multiculturalism has been hotly debated and opposed since the nation's inception. 
Opponents to the policy feel that it leads to the erosion of a unified Canadian identity. 



279 R v. Headteacher and Governors of Denbigh High School, (2006) UKHL 15, 
available at 

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldjudgmt/jd060322/begum-4.htm . 

280 Id. 

281 

Brendan Nicholson, PM rejects headscarves ban, The Age, Aug. 30, 2005, available 
at http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/pm-rejects-headscarves- 
ban/2005/08/29/1 12530251 1538.html . 

282 Id. 

283 Id. 

284 See A. Wayne MacKay & M. Chantal Richard, Multiculturalism: Who Needs It?, 8 
Educ. & L.J. 265, 282 (1998). 

285 

Id. at 270 (pointing out that multiculturalism cannot be blamed for everything, since 
these groups would be demanding certain rights whether or not an official governmental 
policy on the issue had been articulated). 



50 



Despite the opposition, the government supports visible minorities in their integration 
into Canadian society. 286 

After 9/11, the Canadian courts have ruled consistently with this approach. The 
Supreme Court of Canada concluded that Sikh students can carry kirpans to schools. 
The Court specifically held 

an absolute prohibition against wearing a kirpan infringes the freedom of 
religion of the student in question under [section] 2(a) of the Canadian 
Charter of Rights and Freedoms [hereinafter Canadian Charter]. The 
infringement cannot be justified under [section] 1 of the Canadian Charter, 
since it has not been shown that such a prohibition minimally impairs the 
student's rights. 288 

Similarly, a postsecondary student in Quebec, Canada, "was told to remove her 
hijab at College Jean-Eudes[.]" In response, the Quebec Human Rights Commission 
ruled that "religious schools admitting students from more than one faith must make 
reasonable efforts to accommodate all their pupils' beliefs" — irrespective of whether they 
are public or private institutions. 290 

A 2006 shooting spree in French-speaking Montreal, Canada by an immigrant 
Sikh challenged Canada's multicultural ideal. On September 16, 2006, Globe and Mail 
columnist Jan Wong argued that the young man killed because of an alienation from 
Quebec's francophone society, which explains not only this rampage, but also others that 

9Q 1 

occurred in Quebec' s recent past. The Montreal Gazette rejected Wong' s argument in 
clear terms: 

The foolishness of her deduction was confirmed by the lack of evidence to 
support it. In none of the cases . . . was there even the slightest tangible 



286 

See M. Neil Browne & Michael D. Meuti, Individualism and the Market 
Determination of Women's Wages in the United States, Canada, and Hong Kong, 21 
Loy. LA. Int'l & COMP. L.J. 355, 383-386 (July, 1999); Jason R. Wiener, Note, 
Neighbors up North: Nunavut's Incorporation in Canada as a Model for Multicultural 
Democracy, 28 Suffolk Transnat'l L. Rev. 267, 297-98 (2005). 

287 Multani v. Comm'n Scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, supra note 21. 

288 Id. 

289 Private schools can reject hijab, Montreal Gazette, Oct. 5, 2005, at A5. 

290 Id. 

291 Jan Wong, Get under the desk, Globe and Mail, Sept. 16, 2006, at A8. 



51 



hint that their actions were spurred by alienation from mainstream Quebec 

7Q7 

society. ... In each case the ethnicity factor was purely incidental. 



C. The State of the Multicultural Union 

In the United States, "as in other industrialized democracies, we are seeing the 
'return of assimilation.'" In Detroit, Michigan, home to a sizable Muslim population, 
a Muslim woman's case was dismissed after she refused to remove her veil. 294 The 
judge, Paul Parah, explained that he needed to see the woman's face in order to assess her 
truthfulness 295 , an argument similar to the one made by Britain's Jack Straw, who 
claimed that the Muslim veil hindered effective communication. 

A court in Florida upheld a state law requiring an individual's full face to be 
shown on his or her driver's license photo. 296 A Muslim woman who wanted to wear her 
veil for her license photo, sued, arguing in the main that the state law infringed upon her 

297 

First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. In ruling against the Muslim 
woman, the court wrote: 



We recognized the tension created as a result of choosing between 
following the dictates of one's religion and the mandates of secular law . . 
. . However, as long as the laws are neutral and generally applicable to the 
citizenry, they must be obeyed. [Moreover, the law] did not compel [her] to 
engage in conduct that her religion forbids — her religion does not forbid 
all photographs. 298 



292 

Hubert Bauch, Jan Wong was misguided, maybe. But why the fuss? Montreal 
Gazette, Oct. 1, 2006, at A15. 

See Yoshino, supra note 131. 

294 Zachary Gorchow, Veil costs her claim in court, Detroit Free Press, Oct. 22, 2006, 
at IB. 

295 

Id. (noting that the judge in question stated that, "[m]y job in the courtroom is to make 
a determination as to the veracity of somebody's claim .... Part of that, you need to 
identify the witness and you need to look at the witness and watch how they testify."). 

296 Florida appeals court won't allow veil in driver's license photo, ASSOC. Press, Sept. 
7, 2005, available at http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/%5Cnews.aspx ?id=15748 . 

297 Id. 

298 Id. 



52 



On October 24, 2006, in one of the leading newspapers in the world, The 
Washington Post, a columnist argued that Muslim women in America should not wear a 
full-faced veil in public because "it [is] considered rude, in a Western country, to hide 
one's face." 299 While what is considered "rude" is inherently subjective (and thus may 
be based on bias, unfounded stereotypes, or class distinctions), the columnist nevertheless 
expressed the underlying notion that Western society is uncomfortable with certain 
articles of faith and that it is incumbent, therefore, on religious minorities to shed this 
attire rather than continue insulting the host majority — a line of thinking again consistent 
with recent statements made by British leadership. 300 

The editors of The Washington Post, one day later, struck a different tone. 
Responding to the European fixation and discomfort with the Muslim veil, the editors 
noted: 

It's hard to believe that veils are the biggest obstacle to communication 
between British politicians and the country's Muslims; and it's even 
harder to imagine Mr. Straw raising similar objections about Sikh turbans 
or Orthodox Jewish dress. True, the Labor Party MP was reflecting — or 
maybe pandering to — the concern of many in Britain about the self- 
segregation of some Muslims. But veils . . . are not the cause of that 
segregation, much less of terrorism. Attacks on Muslim custom by public 
officials are more likely to reinforce than to ease the community's 
alienation. 301 

As noted in the previous section, Sikh Americans have struggled with the legal 

302 

system to uphold their religious rights. ~ What if Congress banned the wearing of 
conspicuous articles of faith, including Sikh turbans, in public schools? The Supreme 
Court has never ruled on such a question. While the legal remedies, particularly 
constitutional protections, available to Sikhs if legislation similar to that passed in France 



Anne Applebaum, Veiled Insult, Wash. Post, Oct. 24, 2006, A 19, available at 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- 

dyn/content/article/2006/10/23/AR2006102300976.html?nav=rss_opinion/columns . 

See Amna Saadat, Jack Straw and "Unveiling" Britain, The Globalist, Oct. 13, 
2006 ("Britain's former foreign secretary Jack Straw . . . recently argued that the 
traditional veil worn by Muslim women is a visible statement of their separation from 
society. . . . [T]his implies that the multicultural experiment in Britain has failed — and the 
blame has been candidly laid at the feet of Muslims."). 

301 Editorial, Europe's Muslims, Wash. Post, Oct 25, 2006, at A16, available at 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- 

dyn/content/article/2006/ 1 0/24/AR2006 1 0240 1148 .html . 

302 

See Section II. G., supra (concluding that "the availability of legal remedies for Sikhs 
in various areas, including verbal harassment and most employment discrimination cases, 
appears limited."). 



53 



was enacted in the United States are unclear, there is reason for optimism following 
recent Supreme Court pronouncements. 

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that "Congress 
shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]." The Free Exercise 
Clause has been interpreted to generally mean that, "the government is prohibited from 
interfering with or attempting to regulate any citizen's religious beliefs, from coercing a 
citizen to affirm beliefs repugnant to his or her religion or conscience, and from directly 
penalizing or discriminating against a citizen for holding beliefs contrary to those held by 
anyone else." 304 

305 

In the 1963 case of Sherbert v. Verner , the Court identified "strict scrutiny" as 
being the appropriate standard by which to examine a Free Exercise claim. 306 
Accordingly, for the government to prevail in a Free Exercise claim, it would have to 
prove that the law is supported by a "compelling state interest" and that alternative forms 
of regulation that are less restrictive of the Free Exercise right are unavailable. It 
would therefore seem that Sikhs, who wear their turban as an expression of their religious 
identity, generally enjoy the highest level of protection under the First Amendment for 
the manifestation of their faith. 308 

After Sherbert, however, "the Court has started to move toward a narrower 
conception" of the free exercise clause. In 1990, in Employment Division, Department 

310 

of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, the Court upheld a state statute that 
prohibited the use of peyote for religious purposes by Native Americans, ruling in part 
that the law was generally applicable, neutral on its face, and evidenced no intent to 

311 

discriminate against particular religious groups. Although the Court did not expressly 
overturn Sherbert, it limited Sherberfs, ruling to cases regarding the denial of 
unemployment compensation: "even if Sherbert possessed any vitality beyond the 



303 U.S. Const, amend. I. 

304 Donald Kramer, 16A Am. Jur. 2d, Constitutional Law §424 (1998). 

305 374 U.S. 398 (1963). 

306 Id. at 403. 

307 Id. 

308 See Kathleen Sullivan, The New Religion and the Constitution, 116 Harv. L. Rev. 
1397 (2003) (providing an in-depth discussion of interpretations of the Free Exercise and 
Establishment Clauses). 

309 See Walterick, supra note 251, at 264. 

310 494 U.S. 872(1990). 

311 Id. at 878-82. 



54 



unemployment compensation field ... we would not apply it to require exemptions from 

312 

a generally applicable law." 

As one legal commentator noted, the Employment Division decision leaves 
"religious conduct little protection from the effect of a law that is neutral and generally 

313 

applicable." Since a ban on conspicuous articles of faith in public schools would not 
intentionally target Sikhs, and Sikhs would thus be seeking an exemption from generally 
applicable policy, one would suspect that any First Amendment right that they could 
claim to allow them to wear the turban may fail under the Employment Division 
standard. 314 

A state court case in which the appeal was dismissed by the United States 
Supreme Court, Cooper v. Eugene School District, 315 highlights the limitations of 
religious dress statutes enacted for public employees when applied specifically to Sikhs. 
Janet Cooper was a public school teacher, who converted to Sikhism and began to wear a 
white turban and white clothes while teaching her sixth and eighth grade classes. 316 She 
was disciplined and her teaching license revoked as a result of a state statute that 
prohibited teachers in public schools from wearing any religious dress while engaged in 
the performance of duties as a teacher. 317 The Supreme Court of Oregon held that the 
religious dress statute did not violate, among other things, the First Amendment, stating 
"If such a law is to be valid, it must be justified by a determination that religious dress 
necessarily contravenes the wearer's role or function at the time and place beyond any 
realistic means of accommodation." The court maintained that by excluding teachers 
whose dress is a constant visual reminder of their religious commitment, the law seeks to 

319 

respect the right of free exercise of the students. Although the court admitted that 
Cooper had not been trying to proselytize to her students, it felt that the repetitive and 



312 Amarsect S. Bhachu, A Shield for Swords, 34 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 197, 204 (1996). 

313 

Thomas Berg, The New Attacks on Religious Freedom Legislation, And Why They Are 
Wrong, 21 Caradozo L. Rev. 415, 415 (1999). 

314 As we will see in our discussion, infra, this standard has made it more difficult for 
Sikhs to successfully assert First Amendment claims. 

315 723 P.2d 298 (Or. 1986), {appeal dismissed, 480 U.S. 942 (1987)). 

316 Id. at 312. 

317 Id. at 300. 

318 Id. at 307. 



55 



constant nature of her appearance could have more of a proselytizing effect than she 

MA 

imagined, and therefore her Sikh regalia should not be permitted in schools. 

To those that doubt the weight of a State Supreme Court decision such as Cooper, 
it should be noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit relied on Cooper in 
1990, following the Supreme Court's dismissal of the appeal, in reaching its analysis of a 
case brought by Muslim public school teacher under Title VII. Accordingly, as one 
commentator noted, prevailing case law "suggests] that states can prohibit public school 
teachers from wearing religious garb in the interest of preserving religious neutrality 
without violating the free exercise rights of teachers as long as the prohibition applies 
equally to all religious dress and does not target or burden one religious group over 

322 

others." It may not be surprising, then, that some argue that a ban on conspicuous 
articles of faith in public schools is "not completely unthinkable in the United States," 
and that the religious rights of a turbaned Sikh public student after 9/1 1 are "tentative" at 
best. 323 

In 1993, however, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act 
(RFRA), which was designed to reinstate the "compelling interest" Sherbert test for free 
exercise claims. 324 The RFRA states that the "Government shall not substantially burden 
a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general 

325 

applicability," unless the government demonstrated that the burden is "in furtherance 
of a compelling governmental interest" and "is the least restrictive means of furthering 
that compelling governmental interest." In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court, in City of 



320 Id. at 312-13. Interestingly, Cooper's decision to manifest her faith at school could 
have been recognized by the court as an educational benefit, namely of teaching her 
students about the diversity of the society they inhabited and, as such, teaching them to 
appreciate and respect those who may not appear to be the same as themselves. The 
court, however, assumed that visible religious minorities that are active in their 
communities are in essence imposing their faith on others by simply adopting the 
symbols of their own personal beliefs. 

321 U.S. v. Bd. of Educ. for Sch. Dist. of Philadelphia, 911 F.2d 882, 884 (3d Cir. 1990). 

322 

Walterick, supra note 251, at 267. 

323 Id. at 269. See also Elliot Taubman, Headscarves, Skullcaps and Crosses: Does 
Banning Religious Symbols in Public Schools Deny Human Rights? 53-Jun R.I. B.J. 9, 34 
(2005) ("Even with a compelling interest test, when applied in a public school context, 
with at least equality of treatment of all religions, then Justice Scalia may say that taking 
the entire balance into account, there is a legitimate basis for a ban on obvious religious 
symbolism."). 

324 City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 515 (1999). 

325 42 U.S.C.A. §2000bb-l(a). 

326 42 U.S.C.A. §2000bb-l(b). 



56 



Boerne v. Flores, declared that RFRA was unconstitutional as applied to individual 

327 

states/ However, it held that it is still applicable to First Amendment violations alleged 
against the federal government. 328 

In 2006, the Supreme Court may have marked an expansion of free exercise 

329 

protection. In Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniado Do Vegetal, a church 
that uses hallucinogenic tea in religious ceremonies claimed the enforcement of the 
Controlled Substances Act infringed on the church's free exercise rights. The Court 
unanimously sided with the church, noting that the government must "demonstrate a 
compelling interest in uniform application of a particular program by offering evidence 
that granting the requested religious accommodations would seriously compromise its 
ability to administer the program," and rejecting the government's "slippery- slope 
concerns that could be invoked in response to any RFRA claim for an exception to a 
generally applicable law," namely, "If I make an exception for you, I'll have to make one 
for everybody, so no exceptions." 330 The Court indicated that a case-by-case approach to 
evaluating exemptions to generally applicable religious laws was appropriate, as was 
the case in the 2005 decision of Cutter v. Wilkinson. 332 Acknowledging that "there may 
be instances in which a need for uniformity precludes the recognition of exceptions to 
generally applicable laws under RFRA," the Court did not find that the Controlled 
Substances Act was immune from exemptions "given the longstanding exemption from 
the Controlled Substances Act for religious use of peyote, and the fact that the very 
reason Congress enacted RFRA was to respond to a decision denying a claimed right to 
sacramental use of a controlled substance." 333 

To the extent that the government may pass a ban on conspicuous articles of faith 
to promote secularity or a national identity, such an interest would likely not pass under 

334 

Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, which soundly 



il1 City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 536 (1997). 

328 See Kikimura v. Hurley, 242 F.3d 950, 959 (10th Cir. 2001) (noting that "the 
separation of powers concerns expressed in Flores do not render RFRA unconstitutional 
as applied to the federal government" and that "when a portion of a statute is declared 
unconstitutional the constitutional portions of the statute are presumed severable"). 

329 Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniado Do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006). 

330 Id. at 421. 

331 Id. at 436. 

332 Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 724-26 (2005). 

333 Gonzales, 546 U.S. at 436. 

334 

Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, 268 U.S. 510 
(1925). 



57 



rejected a state interest in ensuring homogeneity of American children and achieving 
assimilation in public schools. The Court stated, "The fundamental theory of liberty 
upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state 
to standardize its children[.]" 335 To the extent that a government interest may be based 
on fear of fundamental Islam, that interest may be construed as discriminatory animus or 
perpetuating stereotypes, which would not please the Court either. 336 

Assuming that the federal government can proffer a compelling state interest, 
which is highly unlikely, Sikhs may be able to obtain an exemption from a ban on 
conspicuous articles of faith without having to run into the "slippery slope" concern of 
the government in part because of the fact that Sikhs have been permitted to wear turbans 
in the United States since their arrival. An interesting situation arises, however, if Sikhs 
are presented with the option of covering their hair, for example, with a school hat as 
opposed to the Sikh's turban. In this instance, a Sikh's case against the ban may not be as 
strong because he is still given an option to cover his kes. 



D. Conclusion 

In sum, the debate regarding whether conspicuous articles of faith are permissible 
in Western society due to security and/or more pragmatic concerns, such as enabling 
accurate identification and facilitating effective communication, is primarily a European 
phenomenon focused on Muslims and Muslim religious clothing. From this analysis it is 
evident that a number of sophisticated countries are engaged in this debate, and that 
serious infringements of the ability of Muslims, Sikhs, and others to wear insignias of 
their faith have occurred in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

The United States, as a host for hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Sikhs, is 
necessarily involved in the enterprise of determining where on the integration-passive 
multiculturalism spectrum its society lies — and consequently determining the extent to 
which the Sikh turban will be tolerated or challenged not only as a symbol of terrorism, 
but as an assault on American identity and solidarity. From the Sikh perspective, the 
legal framework available to Sikhs is still emerging, though recent developments support 
the contention that this framework may adequately protect Sikhs if Congress were to pass 
a ban on conspicuous articles of faith in public schools, as the French did in 2004. 



Id. at 535. 

See Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 252-54 (1982). 

58 



IV. Conclusion 



As noted at the outset, this Article aims to draw attention to the state of the Sikh 
turban through an analysis of how the turban has transformed from an article of religious 
devotion to a cue for violence and object of marginalization. Indeed, in various contexts 
and settings, Sikh- Americans have been subject to an unfortunate backlash in which their 
distinct appearance has been used as a proxy for the identity of a terrorist or terrorist- 
sympathizer. Broader efforts to achieve integration by eliminating conspicuous articles 
of faith from the public sphere have also challenged the Sikh identity on indirect grounds. 

In this Article, we have observed that the American legal system is unlikely to 
protect Sikhs from the most common form of discrimination — verbal insults such as "bin 
Laden," "raghead," and "terrorist" — though the nation's laws may protect Sikhs from a 
more drastic and wide-reaching policy of prohibiting Sikhs from wearing turbans in 
public schools. Sikhs, however, must continue to utilize non-legal methods to ensure that 
discriminatory activities do not occur in the first place, primarily by educating individuals 
who are unfamiliar with the Sikh turban or who are likely to associate it with terrorism. 
Because redress through the courts takes significant time and is not certain to produce 
desired results, a preventative approach — where Sikhs educate others of their identity and 
commitment to fundamental American principles — is likely to be the more effective 
means by which Sikhs are seen as a distinguishable, but still a welcomed, part of the 
American race. 337 



JJ/ See Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200, 239 (1995) (Scalia, J., 
concurring in part and concurring in the judgment) ("In the eyes of government, we are 
just one race here. It is American."). 



59 



Through non-legal avenues, such as awareness and outreach efforts, the 
discrimination experienced by this minority community, one that espouses basic 
American values of equality and civic involvement, will hopefully cease and will not 
remerge with increased fervor if there is another act of terrorism on American soil. As 
Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook noted in 2003, "[T]hose who keep heads covered as a 
sign of respect for (or obedience to) a power higher than the state should not be . . . 

339 

threatened with penalties." Nor should they be threatened with marginalization, 
physical injury, or even death because of a superficial resemblance with our real shared 
enemy. 



" In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Sikhs were forced to organize to respond 
effectively to threats to the Sikh community and in particular to the Sikh appearance. 
Subsequent efforts led to significant achievements in the ability of Sikhs to maintain their 
religious identity and to defend their rights when and if that identity is challenged. For 
example, Sikh civil rights organizations have kept the Sikh community informed of its 
rights and published guidelines explaining how to respond to racial profiling or 
harassment in airports or other public space, see, e.g., Sikh Media Watch and Resource 
Task Force, SMART Advisory Memorandum on the issue of Illegal Turban Searches at 
Airports, 

available at http://www.sikhmediawatch.org/pubs/SMART Advisory Memo on Turban 
Searches at Airprots.PDF ; Press Release, EEOC Provides Answers About Workplace 
Rights of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and Sikhs, Equal Employment Opportunity 
Commission, May 15, 2002, available at http://www.eeoc.gov/press/5-15-02.html (the 
EEOC published guidelines for employers and employees specifically detailing the 
workplace rights of Muslims, Arabs, and Sikhs); and the federal government published 
posters informing security officials, particularly airport screeners, of how a Sikh turban 
and kirpan may be identified; see also DOJ Poster, Sikh Americans and the Kirpan, U.S. 
Department of Homeland Security (2006), available at 
http://www.saldef.org/anm/articlefiles/1604-SALDEF DHS Kirpan Poster.jpg ; see also 
USA Patriot Act § 1002(a)(5) (These groups also lobbied for a congressional resolution 
recognizing that Sikhs have a "distinct religious and ethnic identity" that has become the 
target of attacks.). See, e.g. id. at § 1002(b)(2), available at 
http://www.sikhcoalition.org/Legislative.asp (The resolution notes that Congress 
"condemns bigotry and any acts of violence or discrimination against any Americans, 
including Sikh- Americans."). 

339 

See James, supra note 21, at 958. 



60